Over the weekend a book fair was held in the city, a good idea to break the cultural listlessness that overtakes Havana in the late summer. The Paseo del Prado and the areas around the Capitol where filled with tents, music and a public eager to see the new titles and alarmed at the cost of the “vice of reading.”
I spent a couple hours among the kiosks and noticed the large percentage of re-issues that adorned the shelves. I also returned to notice the missing, those not mentioned, the Cuban writers who have spent more than forty years swelling the list of “banned” books. The choice between who can be read in Cuba, and who can’t, comprises the political culture, and was exactly the theme that fed the intellectual controversy that occurred between January and February of this year.
On this island, touched by the genius of literature, I walk through a book fair and don’t see the name of Cabrera Infanta, nor that of Jesus Diaz, much less those of Herberto Padilla and Novás Lino Calvo. I ask a young saleswoman if she has something by Elisea Alberto Diego and she responds with a shrug of the shoulders, not knowing what to say. Nor do I see the restless genius of Reinaldo Arenas, much less the sharp criticisms of Mañach.
Someone has mutilated what I should have read. From behind a desk they have sealed the pages that belong to me by the mere fact of being born here. Books and more books that I have not seen, their absence weighs on me.
I return home, glad that my library is not aware of exclusions, is not divided by political colors or non-literary criteria such as “treason” or “unconditionality.”
In the daily action of sorting my books I exercise my tolerance and deceive the censors.