Book Fair or Circus in Havana?

Bolshoi Dancers performing in Havana as part of the Book Fair.

The Havana Book Fair has begun.  I remember it like the usual party: getting together with friends, some who are not there physically, like Guille Vidal; from some part of the universe he must be laughing at us, we who still haven’t learned to quit with the insults.  “The only thing that matters is to leave your existence in your writing,” he said, “the sticks and stones of life, these also help you to be a better person, more creative,” he declared. I also remember professor Salvado Redonet, digging through the last literary harvest for possible anthologies, “all of us, like Virgilio Piñera, we are all afraid,” he told me once.

At the Book Fair we writers exchange our recent creations and also the injustices of the officials, then we come to a consensus about how best to protect ourselves, demand that they respect us, and above all make them know we are not alone.

The majority of the writers of my generation emigrated.  Now we don’t have a group at the PABEXPO exposition center, nor in the sad former prison of La Cabaña.  Now they are only shadows, exhalations escaping from their books.

Before the end of the first year of this blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, I am already a writer marginalized by officialdom. I am neither dead nor absent, but it is as if I were. They used to call me at home from five provinces, in previous years, to invite me to present books, participate in talks, and what I liked best, to visit the prisons, the schools in the countryside, the factories. But the Cuban Book Institute (ICL), I suppose under orders from its superiors, refused to let me participate.

I just told those who wanted me to visit that it didn’t matter: forget the censors and their evil, you do your part, promote literature that is the best of human endeavors.

Currently the Book Fair has become a great deception, its function, rather than cultural, is to be a social event, there are hardly any new editions.  Eighty percent of the books are re-issues, and the other books they offer have spent years sitting in the inventories of warehouses and bookstores. The only new editions you can find are in political-social literature, and some titles from the guest country. The prices of even the cheapest books represent several days wages for the average citizen. The foreign publishers offer books destined to become pulp, Havana is the last stop, the final opportunity to unload this stock.

It is time to have the Book Fair every two years and stop creating this circus; the State must try, once and for all, not to put on a political event but rather a cultural one, with the primary objective of promoting universal literature, and above all, national literature.

What I do know is that every day that passes it is more and more necessary to keep the blog, The Children Nobody Wanted; as far as my marginalization as a writer, I accept it.

This status represents the circumstances of the authoritarian system in which I live and which I detest.


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