HAVANA TIMES — Wherever I go, I like to browse in bookstores. Through what appears on the shelves, and what doesn’t, I try to piece together what people are thinking or, at least, what they are thinking about. So i was delighted when I found my first bookstore in Havana, on Obispo.
My partner and I spent some time there, unmolested by the hawkers, hustlers, and even outright beggars on the street.
In that bookstore there was lots of Jose Marti, less Castro and Guevara, and no Lenin. They also had a good selection of children’s books.
Eventually, I did find some Lenin in a bookstore in Santa Clara, two copies of Lenin on Imperialism, the Highest Stage… and volume one of a biography of Lenin. I found Lenin in at least one other store, as well as some Marx and Engels in Cienfuegos.
Overall I was in six stores, plus second hand stores and some open air markets. I did not set foot on any university campus. Perhaps the selection there is different.
I found Kafka, Mary Shelley, Doris Lessing, Tom Clancy and Danielle Steele, all in Spanish. I saw a book by or about Marietegui. The bookstore in Trinidad had several copies of CLR James’ The Black Jacobins, also in Spanish.
Here are some writers I did not find. Stalin, Mao, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Bukharin, Plekhanov, Mandel, Chomsky.
On the Middle East there was practically nothing. Certainly nothing on the Arab Spring.
My partner did see a Spanish language collection of Mahmoud Darwish. And I saw a book on the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The second time i saw it, I opened it up and had a look. It was not written in Cuba, but was a Spanish edition of a book originally published in Iran.
Not surprisingly, there was a picture of Khomeini on the front cover and the dedication page said, “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.”