It was a few weeks ago, in a Champions League match (the soccer issue seems a curse again). Commentators, the friendliest team of Fox Sports, aerate the profile of the referee. The usual: name, age, nationality and (this always seems a story) the extra-arbitral job, the “civil” profession, so to speak. The referee of that match worked in a company of graphic arts and printing or something like that, I cannot remember. What I do remember well, because it made me turn the TV up was the information that followed.
In a burst of predictive enthusiasm, one commentator suggests that the referee should leave his other activities, because all printed things are about to disappear.
-No… His partner (Vizcayart, the always self-confident Don Vizca) says with a tone of not overdoing …- Books will continue to exist…
-Of course books will continue to exist -the other replies. They are called e-books!
I watch football for these things, essentially. When you least expect it, you are witnessing a debate on the future of the book.
That’s in the developed world –the defender of print culture protests (while an European ball rolls on the field completely alien to the discussion) -. In underdeveloped countries the book will remain.
Really? I told myself. Couldn’t it be reversed? And suddenly I found myself thinking about that more or less near future in which Cuba is going to be an underdeveloped country. Shall we have more books then? The truth is that now in Cuba (I do not know how Mariel goes, I’m not informed, but the rest of the country is still like an Underdevelopment Special Zone), the game is won scandalously by the team of e- books.
When I say match I speak of reading survival, that is, the ability to update and multiply your readings. When I say e-books I talk about free doc files , rtf, pdf and epub circulating around. Perhaps, strictly speaking, they are not even e-books, but a family of pre- or post-printing artifacts (and that, usually, have nothing to do with printing): pirate scans, leaks of transnational publishers , downloads that were transferred from one format to another and then another, too narrow or too wide text boxes, scrapped paragraphs, documents with spacing errors …
Anybody can copy in a flash memory the complete works of Kafka, for instance. And a monosyllabic title that I found recently and that I’d take to recommend: K., by Florentine writer and editor Roberto Calasso, excellent essay telling Kafka’s stories from inside -the italics come from a note of Anagrama, the publishing house that a decade ago launched the book in Spanish for the underdeveloped world; back cover note that I read in digital, on a screen, following the physiology of their stories in a dialogue that sounds like a contaminated jazz duo.
We soon discovered that this physiological dialogue or contaminated jazz theme, escapes from the rhythmic tangle of platitudes known as the ” Kafkaesque”. Where do the Kafkaesque begin and end? The issue is complex and goes beyond the scope of these lines without purpose. But the footprint of Kafka´s executor and best friend forever, Max Brod, who in the words of Calasso, “managed to give a kitsch touch to anything, “is out there, somewhere.
K. is a book full of happy ironies (if I had read it on paper it would be fully underlined). On two of the most famous exegetes of Kafka, Calasso writes: ” The erotic nature of the women of ¨El Proceso¨ and ¨El Castillo¨ produces an uncontrollable psychic turmoil in Benjamin and Adorno. As if those characters forced them to reveal their most secret sexual fantasies. ”
I think in Benjamin and Adorno, uncontrolled, agitated … If Kafka creates, according to Borges, his precursors, can’t perhaps his female characters cause a retrospective series of erotic fantasies? “La via de las mujeres” (The way of women) is the title of a chapter of K. which tells in parallel several sequences of El Proceso and El castillo; “The way of women” also as a way to get into these books, in all his books, and walk through the compartments.
To conclude: there is a certain image of a lone Kafka, half autistic, obsessive-compulsive, locked all the time writing or trying to write (and locked, above all in his head ). He helped to spread it. But there is also evidence of the author reading aloud to others, leaving the cave to share what he has written.
We have a jubilant Kafka reading to his sisters (his sisters!); the sentencing immediately after putting an end to the story. We have a Kafka reading Metamorphosis to the public, and the public hav ing a laugh. And it is here where Roberto Calasso tells us:
” One evening in November,” with perfect indifference, “Kafka reads his dirty story “En la colonia penitenciaria ” (In the Penal Colony) at a gallery in Munich, in front of fifty people and in the presence of paintings by Van Dongen and Vlaminck hanging on walls. There was a sense of cold as “the empty mouth of a stove.” While reading, the graphologist Max Pulver had the impression that “a vague smell of blood was spreading” throughout the room. At one point a thud was heard. A woman had fainted and was immediately evacuated. Others left before the end. Others complained that the reading had been too long. ”
I ‘m mulling over the curious scene. That is called to read up to fainting; the little voice of someone reading in German; the monotonous sound; the color of the Fauvists. And a graphologist who does not need to examine the manuscript: writing lines are there, spread in the air as unhealed cuts.