No Books for Cuba’s Youth

Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES — Some of my son’s high-school friends and other kids from around the neighborhood often come over to my house to play video-games on our computer.

Sometimes, the noise they make becomes unbearable and I want to throw them all out. On other occasions, however, while my son is taking a shower and they are waiting for him to come back to resume the game, I try to have a chat with them to find out what they’re into. It is not my intention to pry – I am merely interested in the viewpoints of young people who are caught up in the dizzying pace of video-games and Manga series.

Among other things, I ask them questions about literature. “Do any of you read?” I ask them, trying to conceal my curiosity.

They begin to answer me individually. David, for instance, tells me that he hates reading and that he prefers to watch the weekly TV packages his mother buys. I know these packages include a good many educational and other interesting materials. I recently read an article written by a journalist who was defending these packages as an entertainment option.

Pablo tells me that no one reads at his home, that it is unusual to see anyone in his family open a book – that they don’t even have bookshelves. They put away his school textbooks in a closet. His parents watch soap operas and romantic comedies – both want to unplug at night.

Neni confesses that he once made the effort to read a chapter of Tom Sawyer, because a girl in his classroom had recommended it to him, but that he gave it back to her the next day. It had struck him as far too silly.

Lastly, my son tells me of his own preferences. Even though he sees many of his relatives read and cultivate this habit, he wants nothing to do with books. The TV series and videogames that take up part of his time are far more exciting for him, as are playing and watching soccer.

The new generations care nothing about the past. They make quick judgments about things and take it one day at a time. They cease to exercise their imagination and opt for the palpable, the now. Romanticism is out of style. Their tactics and strategies are far simpler, and the inner world recedes to the background. Technology swallows them up in many different ways. Digital books occupy an important place among modern gadgets, but reading on a screen isn’t something that captures people’s attention for long, not longer than 2 hours, at least, and straining one’s eyes that way may actually be detrimental.

I am sure there are many young people who don’t fall under this category. I know that the son of a friend and colleague of mine is writing a fantastic novel and that he’s read several works by Shakespeare.

I suppose they are the ones who have been saved, and who save literature. At the very least, they don’t consider it a boring mistress.

It is not my intention to conduct a socio-cultural study of this phenomenon or anything of the sort. I am merely sharing my experiences here. There are far too many factors involved in this business of people not wanting to read.

For me, on the other hand, reading was a passionate adventure. My father and sister even read me books when I was ill or bed-ridden. It was like listening to one of those audio-books, but there was a warmth to the reading that a recorded voice will never have.

9 thoughts on “No Books for Cuba’s Youth

  • September 30, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    No rodrigvm I have to address the reality of the CDR. You clearly don’t live in Cuba and in any case as a supporter of socialism, dictatorship and repression would be very acceptable to the Castro family regime. They would undoubtedly recognise one of their own. My experience of socialism in practice during my life is prolonged and I know how it is all about power and control. Just watch how Dr. Jose A. Praga Castro Director General of LABIOFAM will wiggle and twist to absolve himself from the Ernesto and Hugo STINK farce by blaming the malicious media of the US. MARK MY WORDS!

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