Literatura venezolana o el país sin pasado / Gisela Kozak Rovero

Venezuelan Literature or the Country Without A Past

Judging by the publishing boom of recent years, people are reading more national authors than a decade ago. The reason is clear: the country now hurts more than ever amidst the grinding gears of the Bolivarian revolution.

Notwithstanding, readers seem to lean toward the historical or political essay, written by historians, journalists, analysts from various specialties, or toward biography (the collection published by El Nacional, the texts of historian Inés Quintero or the book by Alberto Barrera and Cristina Marcano on president Chávez). Surely novelists like Federico Vegas, Alberto Barrera and Francisco Suniaga have been able to achieve various new editions of their books and the choices offered by Venezuelan literature are more ample and diverse than ever, if we include private and public publishing houses. But there seems to be no audience, enough to absorb the offerings.

Faced with this situation, it’s best not to fool ourselves: dear reader, please forget about the low number of readers, the miseries of education, the reigning lack of culture or the evils of television. Sure, we read, but not our literature.

For example, more than forty thousand copies of the anniversary edition of Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez were sold. People read newspapers, magazines and also books by people involved with radio and TV like Leonardo Padrón, Oscar Yanes and Laureano Márquez.

Manuel Caballero, Inés Quintero and Elías Pino Iturrieta sell their history books; from another specialization, Rafael Arráiz Lucca has been successful with his panorama of Venezuelan history. People buy the Harry Potter adventures or Paulo Coehlo, a mix of religion and self-help with the barest trace of narrative. Examples abound, but I think these few are enough to make myself understood.

Literature is not a reference point in Venezuela. University students of Literature (although this is changing) don’t feel part of a tradition that functions as a legacy and, also, as a point of departure for introducing modifications. The interest in history books is a healthy political and intellectual tendency and a symptom of our ailments.

The key is in the past, yes, but this awareness doesn’t translate into a revaluation of the civil legacy to national life, but instead a return to history as an attempt to explain the Bolivarian revolution, an event whose enduring consequence should be that we propose to regain our political, social, economic, juridical, scientific and cultural conquests of the last two hundred years, to deepen and surpass them. We don’t read our literature because it doesn’t form part of our experience as Venezuelans; it’s not about a lack of quality but rather a national inability to see ourselves in the achievements of the past; an inability that collaborated with Chávez’s arrival to power.

{ Gisela Kozak Rovero, Tal Cual, 24 June 2008 }

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