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Gustavo Gac-Artigas

What happens to a writer when he lives in a country with high percentage of illiteracy?

For the record, and before, the evil-minded begin to wonder where in Latin America do I live, let me tell you that I live in the United States.

And metaphorically speaking we will call functional illiterates those who have not read a whole book in the last six months, or in the last year, just to be condescending. May the kind reader adhere to the corresponding category regardless of the country in which he lives.

The writer will be known through book reviews given that the affable enlightened illiterate –to avoid being considered an ignorant– will talk about him borrowing the words of others, and will even buy a copy of the book if he gets carried away by a new and repeated line in literary criticism: “Linear narrative, easy to read.”

Thus, what was once considered an insult to intelligence, is now transformed into a positive trait in a country with a high percentage of offended readers who do not realize that they are being offended. And the authors who receive those kinds of reviews do not complain because greater is the offense, bigger are the sales.

The writer?

The writer will lose the hope that the gentle reader smile, get excited, enjoy that metaphor that discreetly slips on page 234 of the book, or get lost in the paths of imagination while rewriting his work in his mind adorning it with his own cultural and experiential baggage.

The writer will be known through social media, through interviews, and despite belonging to an endangered species, he will still enjoy the privilege of writing, even if no one reads him. Or he can continue writing for an elite, even if the word represents an intangible heritage of humanity and is to be democratic and not an instrument of power; even if the word caresses and makes you shiver, and kindles love and curiosity.

But of course, this happens in the country of “I do not read,” and not in the country where the kind reader lives. And perhaps that is the reason why individuals like Donald Trump succeed in arriving in power. Or that, corrupt former rulers can enjoy impunity and be candidates again. Or that someone like Nicolás Maduro rules in Venezuela and someone like Michel Temer in Brazil. Or that the winds of populism unleash everywhere. Or that the right wing takes out its mask and govern openly on behalf of their interests. Or that today, in Chile, someone like Emilio Enrique Neira Donoso, former agent of the Central Nacional de Inteligencia, is paid a post-traumatic stress disability pension “for the trauma suffered after participating –obeying the orders of his superiors– in Operación Albania in 1978, which resulted in the assassination of twelve people.

Or maybe it is just that the world stopped being linear and became too complicated to be read and understood, and it is more convenient to close the book.

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