Can books take on a charmed life? Normally, they come and go. Some with big name authors earn mega-bucks. Some languish in obscurity, waiting to be discovered. But every so often, a book is researched, written and published against long odds, and then, it acquires even more relevance because of an external event.
That's how I would describe Amir Saarony's excellent history of the Partagás saga, from the brand's beginnings in the famous factory behind Havana's Capitol building to the current day. Since he finished the book, and almost simultaneously with its release in February at the annual Festival del Habano cigar party, the Cuban government announced that the Partagás Factory was closed for good as a manufacturing facility and would become the new home of the country's tobacco museum. Partagás, the brand, of course, will still be made, but in another factory.
The author, Amir Saarony, is a graphic designer based in Canada. He fell in love with Cuba working on some projects there, and then became "obsessed" with the historical artifacts of Cuban cigars. A true aficionado, he began researching Cuban cigar history, and after many conversations and discussions, decided on the Partagás story as the first of a series of books about his passion. "The project really is the evolution of a dream," Saarony said recently.
While he poured a lot of his own money, and time, into the book, in the process overcoming many obstacles thrown up by the basic difficulties of getting anything done in Cuba, he said that the book would not have been possible without the collaboration of many friends in Cuba. Many of the chapters are written by Cuban authors including Orlando Arteaga Abreu and the former director of the Partagás shop, J. Abel Expósito Diaz, who is currently under investigation for unspecified charges for his activities at the shop.
The book is filled with a fascinating historical chronology of the Partagás brand, starting with its founder, Jaime Partagás y Rabell, who started the Flor de Tabacos de Partagás y Cia. The first location was on the Calle Industria, in the same building where the brand was made until its closing last year. The earliest artifacts in the book date back to 1850, and there are pictures of old labels and boxes from that era too. The book then chronicles the incredible history of the factory, as it entertained heads of state and celebrities from around the world during its nearly 170-year history.
Saarony says the book will be available in the United States in May, and around the world in Casas del Habano during the rest of 2013. Look for it. It's a beautiful piece of history, and it documents the life and times of one of the icons of Cuba's cigar universe, Partagás and the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagás.