Tuesday, September 28

Censorship and repression: the country invited to the Madrid Book Fair

The Madrid Book Fair is being held this year with Colombia as the guest country and, according to the organization of the event, “through its immense diversity, which is its main source of wealth, it will show thousands of visitors the progress of a nation that since 2019 commemorates 200 years of Republican history “. However, it seems that the diversity and democracy typical of the republican culture is conspicuous by its absence in the selection of writers that it will bring to the fair.

The government of Iván Duque made a selection that left out many of the most famous writers in the country, such as Fernando Vallejo, Héctor Abad, Laura Restrepo, Piedad Bonett or William Ospina. Just to cite a specific example: “The forgetfulness that we will be” by Héctor Abad Faciolince -one of the vetoed authors- is one of the best-selling books in Colombia and that now in Spain it is being received very well since the work has been taken to the cinema under the direction of the Spanish Fernando Trueba and starring the actor Javier Cámara, and it has even been nominated for best Ibero-American film at this year’s Goya Awards.

We could think that in the elaboration of any selection, a certain level of nonconformity commonly arises and this is all that happens, if it were not because according to the Colombian ambassador in Spain, Luis Guillermo Plata, the selection criteria was to present “neutral” authors: “One does not want a literary fair to become a political fair. Neither for one side nor the other. (…) It has been tried to have neutral things where the literary side of the work prevails “.

So it is worth asking ourselves: What is neutral for the Colombian government in a cultural event of international stature such as the Madrid Book Fair? What is not rebellious with his power? What a criticism does not represent to you? But better still, do these neutral works really exist?

It is not by chance that several of these writers who are currently subject to censorship have made criticisms against this or previous governments and it is not by chance that the president himself has qualified to come to present his book at the fair, it must be that President Duque’s political thought is so void of political content that his book can be cataloged in appliance manuals or generalities.

But the decision has not only drawn attention to those who were excluded from the list, but also to those who received the invitation. For example, last Monday the writer Melba Escobar presented her resignation to participate in the event because, as she states, “The ambassador’s statements suggest that the selection of authors who will attend the fair was defined based on political affinities to the Government. , or at least that those who have explicitly been its critics were rejected. It is very difficult not to read it as a form of censorship ”

The writer Tomás González went a little further, who affirmed: “That this corrupt and violent government tries to marginalize some writers is clearly an honor for them and I am happy to have declined the invitation they made me.”

And it is that, although it offends us, the truth is that it does not surprise us, the censorship of these authors responds to the political arrogance of the Duque government and its desire to cover with two fingers what Colombia really is.

As the Colombian journalist Félix de Bedout mentioned on his Twitter: “with the neutral literature criteria of the Colombian ambassador in Spain for the invitation to the Book Fair in Madrid, one thing is clear: Gabriel García Márquez would not have been classified.”

The Duque government does not care about culture, nor diversity, nor democratic and republican culture and all those things for which they invited Colombia. His government is repressive, violent and complicit in the actions of paramilitary groups, as demonstrated in the last social demonstrations in which hundreds of people were murdered and disappeared, most of them young people from vulnerable populations, for whom education was never valued. or culture. He only cares about selling outside his sweetened version of what the country is, while inside he cultivates a human disaster of colossal magnitudes.

I wanted to end this column by saying that the literary selection that the Colombian government brings to the Madrid Book Fair does not correspond to reality, but in the end it will be that yes, that the censorship product of that selection is a reliable sample of what which is Colombia today. Physical and cultural silence under a government that wants to be democratic and plural internationally but is violent and censorious.


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