“Fahrenheit 451” and 2020

By Safie M. Gonzalez

HAVANA TIMES – Yesterday, my grandfather, an avid reader, came up to me with a newspaper in hand to show me an article in particular, “Fahrenheit 451”. I read it; it was really interesting. Many of you may have heard this title, as it’s a book by US writer Ray Bradbury.

This book was first published in 1953. It tells the story of a firefighter who is in charge of burning books on the government’s orders. Until finally, Montag, the lead character, begins to reflect upon his job. This begins when an old woman decides to set herself on fire and turn to ashes with her books.

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel based on an event that happened twenty years before it was published, when over 20,000 books were burned. Twenty years after the book was published, in 1973, there was another mass book burning in Pinochet’s Chile.

The pages in a book might not be more than written sentences that don’t make much sense for some. But for others, they are a source of knowledge and learning. 

Books aren’t burned anymore, and this might have been Bradbury’s fictitious take on something that could happen in the future. However, one thing is for sure, not many people are interested in reading anymore. Reading isn’t one of young people’s regular habits, it’s not even a hobby.

My grandfather, who knows I love reading, suggested I show my 24-year-old cousin the article. He has just graduated from university, but he doesn’t read and he shouldn’t be proud of his spelling.

The author of Fahrenheit 451 wanted to warn us about the importance of gaining knowledge from books. Ignoring their content is something that has been destroying us for a long time, like a fire that burns.

6 thoughts on ““Fahrenheit 451” and 2020

  • Nick is correct in saying that Cuba’s book fairs which are operated by and under Castro regime controls and censorship, are not “specifically designed to appeal to the Conservative mindset.”.

    Indeed they are not designed to appeal to free-thinkers of any particular political view. They are designed to promote the agenda of the Communist Party of Cuba. For some extreme left supporters that properly reflects “value”.

    That is also reflected in the libraries. In our local library, when searching for books upon agriculture (we live in an agricultural area), I found only one well thumbed book published in Spain in 1965 and describing livestock with pictures of British breeds. But there were 37 (yes, thirty seven) pristine copies of ‘Lenin’. Certainly not reading fodder for Conservatives, Liberals or Democratic Socialists.

  • Having attended all kinds of Arts Festivals, Film Festivals and all manner of other cultural activities and events in Cuba including book fairs I can attest to their value.
    These such events may not conform to the specific world view of Mr MacD but they are almost certainly not specifically designed to appeal to the Conservative mindset.
    And we all know that you can’t please all the people all of the time.

  • I fully agree with Safie’s experience leading her to conclude that today’s youth are not great consumers of the written word, particularly books and print newspapers. It is absolutely true that the pages in a book are simply comprised of words wielded into sentences and then soundly structured into cohesive paragraphs leading the reader to immense knowledge and learning.

    Why have people, particularly our youth, lost interest in reading? The obvious speculation is those hand held “smart” phones which have access to the Internet 24/7. Most everyone has one. Stand in front of any school even elementary schools but certainly secondary, college and university and today’s youth are literally and figuratively glued to their screens. Their phones, computers, tablets are more ubiquitous than books which one does not see too often under the eyes of a student.

    To be fair to today’s current youth any book they need to use in their studies can be found digitally on their screens. In the past when, say an English teacher, discussed a book for a literature course students in the class would have the book in their presence. Today that same class would have the book but in digital form on their screen either on a laptop computer or access it via their phone.

    Another reason for the demise of reading. particularly newspapers, is the demise of the print newspaper: period. Sales of print newspapers have decreased to such an extent that many well known local community tabloids have declared bankruptcy and no longer publish or have been amalgamated to such an extent the content within the newspaper does not reflect what is transpiring in local communities. Newspaper in print form cannot financially compete with the plethora of information dished out on the Internet.

    So, today’s youth who want “information” simply Google what they want to know and immediately flashing in front of their eyes are literally thousands of titles about the subject at hand. Some of the information is trash, some newsworthy but for the student its very convenient and not requiring any depth of analysis or need to think about the information provided. After all, some students surmise if its on my phone it must be true.

    The reading of a print newspaper like Safie’s grandfather is becoming more and more archaic, obsolete, worldwide much to the chagrin of high school teachers who witness students inability to concentrate on a written argument or put forth a coherent grammatically correct sentence in an essay because they may not have ever seen one in written form either in a book or a print newspaper.

    As an avid reader, I concur with Safie that not actively reading books nor print newspapers does a great disservice to our youth who will be the leaders of nations into the future and if they do not read and learn and obtain knowledge from past mistakes, as the saying goes, history will repeat itself.

  • Having annually attended the Cuban book fairs which circulate from community to community promoting communist thought and the writings of those who support it, I can say from experience that they are but a crude characterization of true international book fairs which not merely permit, but encourage a range of genre and political views.

  • It is a farce to describe Cuba’s book fairs as a farce.

  • Obviously, Safie Gonzalez as a Cuban, has not witnessed the burning of books. The reason being that Castro censorship has for sixty years, banned the importation or publication of all books that are counter to Marxist 19th century philosophy! Try to find a single copy of Dr, Zhivago in Cuba!

    One assumes that the “newspaper” that Safie read, was one published by the Castro regime, as no free press exists in Cuba.

    Annually, Cuba goes through the farce of nation wide book fairs – all of which are controlled by the regime which ensures that the books conform to their imposed standards. Freedom of publication does not exist in Cuba.

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