Photo Feature by Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 23 — For those of us who turn out for the Havana International Book Fair year after year, it’s not strange to note certain coincidences like massive attendance or the repetition of published authors.
However large attendance doesn’t always indicate interest, meaning that not everybody who goes to the fair wants to buy books or has developed the habit of reading. There are those who turn out to clear their heads, to do something different, or to spend some time with their friends or family, in addition to percentage who actually buy books.
The news in the Cuban press about the preparation and holding of the “most important literary event” is always the same for each annual fair. They’ll tell us about the huge number of visitors and amount of money collected, as if nothing had changed from one year to the next.
And the fact is that almost nothing has varied, because all the books that are printed (the reason for the event) are selected by the officialdom and consequently those authors who are published have to fit within the established template: not opposed to the government’s policies (at least not manifestly in their literature). What’s more, they’re often friends of the jurors who award them in the literary competitions.
There are exceptions, of course. There are people who enjoy writing, who see their works awarded and published without owing favors to anyone and without ceasing to do what they like; but they are the small minority.
In any case, year after year people go to the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress [the main site of the fair overlooking Havana Bay] to get together, to converse, to drink something refreshing and to walk through the pavilions. Perhaps they’ll find a book that interests them and buy it.
What a marvel it is to have the possibility of buying a book that tells us about life, which helps us to awaken our inner child or, on the contrary, confirms to us that it’s better to continue being a child forever.
What’s terrible is to try to make all of us do the same thing, feeding that quantity-over-quality syndrome.
The book fairs will continue, and the news that accompanies them will always try to justify the event, as if what is most important are not the books or the literature, but the great number of people who attend.
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