The Library of My Life

The Library of My Life
Fecha de publicación: 
31 October 2023
Imagen principal: 

One of my greatest dreams is to make a library in my house. Yes, it will seem presumptuous, too lunatic for these times, but making a library is the only solution to organize sixteen bookshelves scattered everywhere, making it impossible to pass through and stay because they dominate the room as if it were a warehouse, also the hallway, the old dining room. When I speak of  bookshelves I’m referring to several large pieces of furniture, not a small board on the wall, but some of about three meters long and two meters high, which in short store many texts on the most diverse topics.

Anyone can imagine that it’s almost a need because books are everywhere and that disorder torments me. it’s so that I prioritized its construction before repairing other key rooms like the bedrooms. But then the pandemic hit hard, the economic debacle, cement bags prices went through the roof, and my expansion project was left in limbo before casting the first column. I was left with the sketch in hand.

But my dream remains latent. It’s true that it’s several years late and sometimes I feel that the chaos in my house will never end because the incipient library is piled up, and that means that the many precious books I keep remain inaccessible, that the dust contained between one and the other will be impossible to clean because there is no space to accommodate some three thousand books.

Books are my fortune, I am a bibliomaniac. I like having them, even if I don't have time to read at the pace I used to. It doesn't matter, someday I will be able to, and they will be there. I always liked them, since I was little I learned to take care of them and today I am capricious, I have rules: I write on them, but I don't fold their pages, I don't take them out of the house, and I avoid lending them because I know that those who like reading also like to own them. That’s why I keep them in such good condition, and since, logically, we live in society and I have had to give in to my selfishness, I take note of whom I lent them and calculate to ask when they will be returned. However, some have evaded their responsibility to return them. And since books are my treasure, I had to buy them again to replace them in my catalog.

I like to see them organized, which is why I suffer so much from this period of imposed chaos. When there were not sixteen shelves yet and you could still have each one with dignity, I organized them by genre and author. That kept me busy because if there was something always caught my attention about libraries, it was their order, the ability to find a book easily. I also began to record each book in an Excel sheet, writing down the title and writer. It was an exhausting task, but useful because for a while it helped me check what I had, to avoid buying them double because obviously remembering hundreds and hundreds of names is not an easy task for such a busy mind, on the other hand, I realized that I had many already repeated, I took advantage and gave those away and make room for others.

The second great dream, from my entrepreneurial soul seeking to channel and combine tastes, hobbies and vocations, was to make a kind of literary cafe-workshop-art gallery, but that idea did not come to fruition because who is going to come to Buena Vista to read or see my drawings? I quickly dismissed it, but I was excited to picture it in my mind. I was influenced by concepts learned in other latitudes, and that I still retain in the design of my most primary proposal.

I remember that my favorite places in other lands were those establishments, not necessarily huge, full of books where I could go buy or read them in very comfortable seats with directed lights and incidental music. They weren't cold bookstores or libraries, it was all very nice, with a cozy atmosphere so you didn't want to leave. They served tea, coffee accompanied by rustic carrot cake, while someone played the guitar, or presented a book, presented their thesis degree or talked about their literary outline or their vision of the country.

Likewise, there were contests and prizes were awarded with books, there were times for poetry gatherings, to read and debate stories or the chapter of a novel, days for children to have fun with board games, paint, learn about some interesting topic with special guests; thematic days were held that were attractive to all sort of audiences... and thus, the agendas were always full of social and cultural activities, but what I liked the most was that each of those places were beautiful, it was not just that they always had interesting books, a very comprehensive selection, the latest editions, or antique jewels, is that they also offered inspiration, were full of well-arranged details, there was no idle area, and guaranteed opportunity for local talent. And I believed that I could bring that novelty could be brought to my house and offer a place to someone who knows how to value literature and good taste.

That scheme seemed very nice, but not at all viable in this context in which we live because I feel that people read less and less, and it’s rare to find, for example, a child who prefers reading. They must be counted on both hands. That's why I was happy with creating an environment just for me, my library-workshop-leisure field where I could read, work, paint or do any craft I desired; my oasis within this overwhelming city, the universe where everything is perfect, the refuge where I can avoid realities, dream of idyllic worlds, also to learn, review history, ask any questions that comes to my mind.

But then the economic depression delayed my plans, but it did not diminish my efforts. While happy better times come, I think about where and at what height I will place the windows so that the room is always lit and ventilated, I calculate what size I need so that the sixteen bookcases come together and look beautiful, I imagine where I will put the work table, the easel, and every tool, ornament, painting, especially the hand-painted slab where it reads Library in blue letters and that I have saved for seven years waiting for its wall. I put effort into the details because right now it’s the only thing I can do, and I don't get overwhelmed because I know that as soon as the moment comes it will be a matter of just building block by block and giving shape to the place, this is what excites me the most in my house project.

This text about International Library Day, which was held in some regions on October 24. Although it does not specifically refer to personal libraries, it reminded me of the latent objective of making my own because, in fact, I already have the main ingredient, which are books.

This is an important date to emphasize the significance of these establishments, essential to safeguarding history because they treasure cultural heritage in all its forms and genres.

Let’s remember that there was a time when books were seen—and still are—as dangerous for being a source of wisdom, for opening our eyes, for showing the world every interesting element of our passage through this world, which is why during the course of humanity many sometimes the sacrilege of burning large numbers of copies, or of censoring a specific author or restricting the editions of a text in open opposition to ideas and beliefs, but it will take more than effort to erase documentary memory.

However, what’s significant is that for a long time people were obsessed with constructing buildings to preserve literary heritage and offer public services. Since ancient times they’ve found that they were essential for their social purpose, for helping to diversify and expand cultural assets because they intervene not only in the education of society, they favor thinking and also entertainment.

What about today, is it still like that?

I keep very clearly the libraries of my existence, that of my Augusto Olivares primary school, where I learned the true meaning of silence; later on 14  de Junio on K Street in Altahabana, but that one seemed gloomy to me. Later the Rubén Martínez Villena at the end of Obispo Boulevard, in Old Havana; the José Martí in Plaza de la Revolución, so magnanimous; and that of my Faculty of Communication when its headquarters was on G Street, in Vedado, small, wonderful. In all of them, their librarians stood out, worthy of their wisdom, without hesitation they guided with total control of the space, the topics and the authors, as if they were living encyclopedias themselves.

However, I quickly realized that the best will always be the personal library because it fits my reading needs, because it’s within reach without queues or haste. That's why I have spent my entire life accumulating books of my taste, buying them—before food—at every fair, park, or corner; then friends started traveling and I asked them, until after a stay in another country I was able to go crazy and satisfy my anxiety: I searched in every small bookstore because prices were low, I took advantage of every Christmas offer, I bought used books online, I exchanged some desired by others, I saved and limited myself to be able to purchase... and thus, little by little, I built the library of my life.

My classmates called me crazy, my parents asked why so many books, and even the General Customs of the Republic, in response to my request to bring in a ton of them for my own use, responded by assuring that they had never asked them such a question; but me, more stubborn and needy, achieved it, and today there I have, just waiting for walls and ceiling, my library is in sixteen bookshelves, in boxes, on the furniture and on every corner.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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