Saturday, April 18, 2009

Literary views

Photo taken from the blog of Zoé Valdés

I’m in a house waiting for a friend and there are two books on the table: The Daily Nothing and The Pain of the Dollar, both by Zoé Valdés. I haven’t read the second one so I grab it and start to browse at random. I wonder whose books they are and ask people indoors and out, but nobody seems to be the owner. At a certain point a foreigner enters, looks with dismay at the literature and exclaims, “But who reads this horror!”

I look surprised and it only occurs to me to ask timidly, “Why?” I expect him to talk to me about literature, to say that he doesn’t like Zoé, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, no? I even imagine an interesting literary conversation and plan to confess that I haven’t read The Pain of the Dollar but that I really liked The Daily Nothing… but my imagination, however fertile it may be, is taken over by reality. He looks at me and I know, by his expression, that he thinks I don’t know who the author is, so he dedicates five minutes of his time to explain to me:

“This writer is the worst of the ‘international anti-Cuba campaign,’ etc. etc. etc., very active and, he adds disgustedly, she has been very successful in France.

I keep quiet, waiting for the next blow, for one second I wonder if maybe I am delirious, maybe Randy Alonso disguises himself as a tourist midday before going on the Round Table TV show. But I persevere and craft my response, even though it depresses me a little to have these discussions with the free citizens of Europe. I wait for him to pause in his speech just to say:

“I think the position of Zoé Valdés is against the government but not against the Cuban people which is not the same.”

But I’m left with the phrase on the tip of my tongue, he ends his sermon, turns his back and leaves. He assumes so many things that he doesn’t even think he needs to wait to see my reaction, so convinced is he that I have nothing to say, that I haven’t read Zoé Valdés (the books might well have been mine), that I’m unaware of the concept of “anti-Cuba campaign,” that I don’t read, that I’m not capable of commenting on politics, or society or literature.

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