My Library: El Tábano

My Library: El Tábano
Fecha de publicación: 
22 November 2023
Imagen principal: 

I recently wrote about the library of my life, the one I have right now, scattered everywhere, piled up and dusty, and the one I’d like to have according to the project drawn in several places: lots of space, lit, full of shelves, books, magazines, ornaments that I have saved in every corner, the white and blue slab that, just in case my mind clouds from a stroke, it will indicate from the main wall that I will be there.

It’s a delayed dream, but just paused. Writing about it gave me the idea to speak of the books of my life, those I have read and have obsessed over with, those I have in line to read, those I’ve had trouble to find, those stolen from me, missed or not returned.

At this moment I read others, but it seemed betrayal to myself to start these texts with a different title. El tábano reached my life 23 years ago, when I started working for real and I could arrange,  month by month, a salary just for me. I could buy any craving because at 17 you have many of them, and few responsibilities, but I chose to make myself my own library because I only had those of my childhood given to me by my parents and those lent by my uncle Humberto. As for children books I already knew
by heart even the pictures, and of the others, because they did not remain with me, and I always liked to own them.

I started looking for what could be treasured. Classic authors little by little they appeared at steep prices, but I didn't care because they gave me pleasure, more than pizzas and croquettes.

I remember I found it in the second -hand section at a bookstore in Santiago de Las Vegas, on the outskirts of Havana. It was from the collection Hurricane, the art and literature publishing house, worn and battered, torn at the edges like mice bite and the hard cover just a piece torn and back missing. That's why it cost very little, but the seller who seemed passionate about the literature recommended it to me.

I took it home with other more flashy relics. At least for an incipient reader like me. That was difficult to handle, but at that time my boyfriend Ramón, who was quite clever and was shoulder to shoulder with many people took it and through someone working at a printing press in a few  days returned it to me as new. It was unrecognizable, totally bound. Of course it kept its yellow and delicate pages, but it had a dark green cover, of a material similar to Vinil, and in golden letters you could read the title on the front cover.

I was shocked, I couldn't believe it. And the best thing, they had trimmed all the edges, I imagine that with a very sharp guillotine that left it more little, and it didn't have a rodent bite. All that without affecting the printing, because it had enough margin. I was delighted, really it was a new volume of superior quality. So it was ready to be read.

Since then El tábano accompanies me. It has been my favorite bedside book, took it to Granma, to the beach or abroad, which I recommend with my eyes shut, whom I turn to as if it were a dear friend who will never fail me when I want to chill and I’m not in the mood to get into dramas. It has been my ally in subjects like script writing.

El tábano made me dream of the blue eyes of its protagonist Arthur Burton, and cry because it’is a dramatic book. It also explained to me what values are, father's feelings and betrayal while their
characters are debated between duty and feeling. It told me about political ideals because this novel is both love and revolution.

History develops in the revolting Italy of the 1840s. It’s about disappointment, distrust, resentment, heroism, persecution and of loyalty to people and convictions. In the same way it’s conspiracy, sacrifice, revenge, rebellion, and uses an anticlerical discourse that borders paranoia and blind hatred to all forms of religion and its representatives.

With this reading I felt pain for a character as if it were a close friend. I suffered  with every passage in its story, I felt cheated, angry, I went through each of Arthur Burton's emotional phases as if I lived in his own skin. With his imminent death I felt desperate, I found his execution so unfair that I cried like a little girl, not just at age 17 but much later too, and every time I read it, although without surprise because I know the end.

Its author, Ethel Lilian Voynich, Irish, was a precursor who left her family environment to devote herself to her profession. Let’s remember that we are talking about the nineteenth century, when such behavior of freedom was uncommon.

It was first published 126 years ago, however, its structure is so clear and organic, that it could be said that belongs to the present day. It has been both censored as translated into many languages, and their millionaire sales prove the acceptance on readers. But all that I knew after I was shocked by the narrative, by the description of the landscapes of Italian Alps, and the environment of old times.

El tábano offers us a linear, simple speech, and in many reviews what they catalog with a spoil for not being the eighth wonder, for being an easy book, however, why compare? The taste is subjective, and
It’s true that its writing makes progress quickly and shows a plot -they call-, of repeated sensations. For me, more than two decades later, it’s still an important work which I love, I consider it well written because emotions manage to catch and force you to keep reading, while walking, eating, in classes and even sleepy.

Shaking a reader’s grounds is not easy.

Although I admit I’m captivated by the time of my life when I got this book, and the parallels I noticed in it, it still satisfies me deep inside despite being a reader now with many more  miles. I know by heart the final letter of its protagonist and I always read it with a knot in my stomach. I remember with regret when he writes “They kill me because they fear me and what else can the heart of any man wish? ”; or worse, when a little before Arthur Burton confirms his identity to his beloved with a simple "Dear Jim"; or then with the following confession “I will tell you only for the pleasure of writing the words. I loved you, Gemma, when you were an ugly little girl with your garnish dress, your striped shirt and your braid hanging on the back; and I still love you. "

El tábano is a romantic novel, not cheesy. In fact,  its plot goes through feelings masterfully because their real meaning is another, to enter the struggle for ideals, whatever they are.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.