By Alfredo Fernandez
HAVANA TIMES – During this last year, and a lot of free time during the pandemic, I discovered ways of accessing knowledge that I had no idea about before.
Yep, I have found the most surprising sites, both on YouTube and Facebook, that offer books for free, as an epub or as a PDF file. It’s been surprising for me, I repeat, because I wasn’t expecting it.
I had always heard people talk about writers whose books I dreamed of reading one day, because they were so expensive in bookstores. Today, I can boast that I have many of their books; I’m talking about Isak Dinesen, Joseph Roth, Isaac Bashevis, Juan Jose Saer, Juan Bosh, etc., ah and I haven’t paid a single dime.
It really is a great stroke of luck, because I wouldn’t be able to read such books if they weren’t available in this form. They are highbrow writers, must-reads for anyone who wants to have a good literary understanding. Especially Juan Jose Saer, the Argentinian writer, with a literary body of work that is growing every minute, and more and more writers and critics are praising him, saying that if Borges was the best writer in Argentina in the first half of the 20th century, then Saer is the best writer in the second half.
I dreamed of finding his books, and now I have all of them. I have just finished reading “Almas Muertas” (Dead souls) by the great Nicolai Gogol, and I’m still reading “Cicatrices” (Scars) by Saer. I will probably end up reading all of his work after.
I’m extremely lucky, there’s almost no book written by a great writer that I won’t devour. I click on a Facebook page, for example: “Online Library” and I search for Jorge Ibarguengoita’s book and in a short while, a very kind person responds with “wait a little bit, I’m going to upload his books for you.”
Social media is magic, its detractors vilify it for distancing people from the essential things in life. But not me, it doesn’t take me away from anything important; on the contrary, it brings me closer instead.
Today, I’m beginning to be a little less ignorant about great literary masterpieces and I owe this in great part to this monstrosity that is Mark Zuckenberg, who has connected us all for better or worse. I try to use it for the better, and I almost always succeed.
A contemporary writer posted on one of the pages the following message: “Please don’t upload my novel in epub or PDF, as you need the author’s rights”, and I perfectly understand her, but her statement doesn’t necessarily affect me.
I like to give priority to the classics and to highbrow writers. I don’t have time to read unknown writers, that isn’t to say that they are bad, but I have to say that if I still haven’t read most of Russia’s classics, with writers who have stood the test of time, then I don’t have time to read novices who are trying to get their foot in the door of the difficult world of literature. I’m prioritizing the writers I mentioned above for now, and many others that I haven’t mentioned here, who have mostly passed away.
This is how I’ve spent my days this year, where I alternate my day job that pays the bills with reading, which is one of the greatest pleasures a human being has access to. I feel blessed to have so much great literature at my fingertips.