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Article published in the Salamanca Network of Municipal Libraries Bulletin (web page here), in No. 55 second era (December 2011). Excellent libraries, amazing and wonderfully professional librarians, and I share the platform with Antonio Muñoz Molina. You can imagine that I feel extremely happy and very honoured. 

I hope this article is of interest (and you like it, of course).

 

THE SILENT REVOLUTION: READING AS AN ACT OF REBELLION

 

I could say that I read out of habit, because reading is a habit which took root in me when I was a boy and which I have continued to cultivate throughout my life.

I could also assure you that I read for pleasure: the pages I enjoy intensely are many, and many have provided me with unforgettable joy.

I could even affirm that I read through pure selfishness, because reading is a deep, intimate experience which feeds me and quenches my thirst. 

I could truly say all these things. And say them without lying, because I read out of habit, for pleasure and through selfishness.

But I think the final reason for my militancy in the team of die-hard readers is that reading nowadays has become a revolutionary activity. Reading is a way to rebel, an open front against conformity, guerilla warfare against grey days and cold nights.  

 

Reading against the rhythm

We live hectic lives, slogging our guts out, always racing around, and with no time to catch our breath.  These are the days they say we have been given: days of frantic weaving and unravelling, of chronic exhaustion and speed without truce.

Days in which there is no time to stop moving, to take a break or for stillness: to see how the leaves turn yellow and fall from the trees, to see how the wind takes them, to pulsate with the dusk, to sit in the street and feel how the cold tugs at the skin. To feel, to look, to stop.

Against the crashing rhythm of the days reading becomes an act of rebellion: to sit down and open a book it to stop the clock, to open a door to another age, other days, other lives.

Reading is an unusual act of rebellion, a spanner in the incessant works, a torpedo on the waterline of the machinery which feeds the conveyor belt rolling under our feet.

To read is to break the mirror, to shatter it, and to step through to the other side.

 

Reading against the noise

These days there is no room for silence: noise, all of it, lives among us. Noise in the street, noise in the houses, noise in our hearts; talking screens, rumbling motors, detuned lifts...there is not a silent gap from morning to night and from night to morning.

This perpetual noise has become embedded in our heads, and like a drill it has reached the centre of everything and there has become a constant buzzing, both severe and persistent.

What is more, this noise that we have swallowed and swallowed and swallowed now lives within us and even flows out of us. Not even under water is one capable of feeling the white steppes of silence, of perceiving the solid presence of silence, of letting oneself be caressed by the soft velvet that is silence. 

Noise is the king of our times.

And against this overwhelming noise reading becomes an act of rebellion: to sit down and open a book is to silence all those strident voices, it is to break down the continuity of noise, to put it into a sack and throw it to the bottom of a well and thus allow silence to once again appear. To open a book is to fall into a calm meadow, fertile territory to dream of stories, to imagine, to listen and to listen to ourselves.

To open a book is to fill the world with silences, those silences which are necessary for emotion, to feel ourselves breathing, that we close our eyes, that we are.

 

Reading against dogma

These are times of uniformity, times of globalization, these are times of brilliant shells and superficial depths. These are times of few questions and a lot of dogma: this is the world we have to live in, one of resignation.

And these are the days we are living, days of identical taste, identical desire, identical thought. Days in which the ideas factory turns out futile, gaudy slogans to feed our mouths and fill or dreams with prefabricated words. Desire, our desire, is in the hands of the market and on this little stage we are the puppets who are living in a dream. Or in a nightmare.

Doctrine enters through the eye and ear and latches on firmly inside. The market makes us all equal. We are visa card meat.

And against the successful indoctrination reading becomes an act of rebellion: to sit down and open a book is to feed on words, chew ideas, discuss and reflect and think and grow and criticize.

Thus reading is an enormous act of rebellion which makes us critical, non-conformist, different, inquisitive, restless.  To read is to break the machinery of identical moulds, of manipulable identities, of the meat in the market. In particular to read those books which do not feed the boilers of the market.

You can even read books free of charge which you can borrow from public libraries! Where has a more revolutionary act been seen in the kingdom of consumerism and globalization!

 

Reading against inaction

These are incomprehensible times, they tell us. These things are inevitable, they insist. We can do nothing, they assure us. And meanwhile they invite us to be seated and watch the days go by: put up with it, tolerate it, keep your head down, put up with it, tolerate it, look at the television...you are still one of the lucky ones, they remind you. Put up with it. Tolerate it.

And be still, don't move a finger, don't even blink in case the universe alters and the balance is upset, the floodgates open and the current drags you to the bottom.

Against this humiliating stillness reading a book becomes an act of rebellion: taking a book works the muscle, works the eye, works the brain, works the desire to participate, responsibility, the implication of the reader. The book makes demands on the reader; it gives a percentage of what it demands, but it makes demands. It says shut up! it says listen! it says pay attention!...and the reader takes part and becomes responsible for whatever happens while reading. To be responsible for and participate actively in what happens to us is without doubt the greatest of all rebellious acts attributable to the book.

 

Yes, I could say that I read out of habit, I read for pleasure, I read through selfishness.

But I am increasingly convinced that I read because I belong to the Resistance; because I am a rebel. And I think that there are still a lot of things that must change. With a book in my hand I am dangerous; I think, dream, ask questions, I am responsible, I live in time...I start the silent revolution which will make a better world.

This is certain.

 

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