Thursday, February 16, 2017

Books Banned at Cuba’s Book Fair

Books Banned at Cuba's Book Fair / Cubanet, Roberto Quinones

Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 10 February 2017 –
The Havana International Book fair and its provincial offshoots would be
more important events if there were debates where all Cuban
intellectuals could participate without exclusions. But they are walled
prosceniums where there is only room for writers who never raise their
voices against any internal injustices. The discriminated and persecuted
find solidarity in other parts of the world; here, no.

So it is not news – nor will be – that these uncomfortable writers are
excluded from debates and even the Fair itself, if they do not fit the
established molds for "docile wage earners of official thought," a
phrase from the Argentine guerrilla with a happy trigger finger and
fierce hatreds.

Beyond the characteristics of the Fair, where there are more people
eating and getting drunk than buying books and participating in cultural
activities, I want to dwell on the intolerance of Cuban publishing policy.

"We do not tell the people to believe, we say read"

This phrase is from Fidel Castro and belongs to the earliest days of his
totalitarian state. When the National Printing Company of Cuba issued a
massive printing of "Don Quixote," our country inaugurated a luminous
time for culture by making available to readers, at very cheap prices,
innumerable classics of universal literature. That effort, which is
maintained, was and is praiseworthy, although it has also been marked by
prohibitions and notorious absences.

Disciplines such as Philosophy, Sociology, Law, Politics and History did
not receive the same attention as literature, and today, after 58 years
of Castroism, authors and works of international prestige still have not
yet been published because the censors are the ones who decide what we
can read, and what is published must be consistent with the policy
imposed by the regime. To this is added the justification that Cuba
cannot pay copyright fees to the affected writers.

Among these, are the Chileans Roberto Bolaño and Isabel Allende,
while Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Mario Vargas Llosa, have been
published very little, although perhaps the exclusion of the latter is
due to his criticism of Castroism. Gabriele D'Annunzio, Aldous Huxley,
Milan Kundera, Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsin also appear in
the waiting circle. William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury," Robert
Musil's "The Man Without Attributes" and Vasili Grossman's "Life and
Destiny" have also not been published and still unknown in Cuban are
Karl May, Enid Blyton, Albert Camus and Heinrich von Kleist while other
authors are being re-published to exhaustion. And don't even talk about
contemporary European and American literature. I am writing from my
declining memory, for if I consulted a book on the history of universal
literature, the list would be immense.

Authors and texts with a strong democratic vocation remain unpublished
here, although historical developments have proved them right. Within
that extensive group are Simone Weil, Nikola Tesla and Wendell
Berry. After little tirades made in 1960, not published again in Cuba
are "The Great Scam" by Eudocio Ravines, "Anatomy of a Myth" by Arthur
Koestler and "The New Class" by Milovan Djilas.

An extraordinary book, "The Man in Search of Sense" by Viktor Frankl,
remains unpublished. The list is joined by Erich Fromm, Ortega y Gasset
and even socialists such as Leon Trotsky, Antonio Gramsci and Ernst
Fischer. To this we can add "Thirteen days" by Robert Kennedy, "Gabo And
Fidel, The Landscape Of A Friendship," by Ángel Esteban and Stéphanie
Panichelli and "God Entered Havana" by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. "The
End of History and the Last Man," published in Spanish by Planeta 25
years ago remains beyond the reach of Cubans and only last year, more
than forty years after its initial publication, "The Great
Transformation" by Karl Polanyi was published and that topped those of
universal literature by Ferdydurke and Witold Gombrowicz, while Borges
remains almost unheard of.

Cuban authors who have written objective analyzes of Castroism or
unauthorized memoirs are also blacklisted. I can cite here Carlos
Franqui, Dariel Alarcon the "Benigno" of Che's guerilla), Juan F.
Benemelis with "The Secret Wars of Fidel Castro," Juan Clark with his
extraordinary book "Cuba: Myth and Reality," Norberto Fuentes with
"Sweet Cuban Warriors" and Commander Huber Matos with "How Night
Fell." Antonio Benítez Rojo, Zoé Valdés, Guillermo Cabrera Infante,
Reinaldo Arenas, Manuel Granados remain proscribed along with Eliseo
Alberto Diego, with the great majority of Cubans not knowing his
shocking testimony "Report Against Myself."

That these books and authors are not published belies the much vaunted
tolerance for diversity that the main representatives of the regime
claim to the unsuspecting and others who are always ready to believe
them. And saying that these books are not published because they can't
pay the authors for the copyright is a half-truth.

If they didn't print so many insignificant books and allocated resources
to truly relevant works, the panorama would be different. The bland
books do not make you think and their destination is on the dusty
shelves of bookstores, or their pages torn out to make cones to sell
peanuts in, or to use for personal cleansing. The significant books are
always dangerous and that is well known by the censors.

Source: Books Banned at Cuba's Book Fair / Cubanet, Roberto Quinones –
Translating Cuba -

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