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Ecuador: The Frustrations of Being a Writer

It may take time until Ecuador produces another writer of the stature of Jorge Adoum. However, the culture of reading in Ecuador is alive and strong, and is given a push from a group of young writers intent on putting their mark on Ecuadorian literature. Yet, being a writer in the country often comes with frustrations, such as competing with higher-profile international authors, and having one's work taken over by politics. Nevertheless, in the end, many of these authors see great promise in the country and just want to get their work to their readers.

Photo of book fair in Buenos Aires, Argentina by Raúl Farias and used with permission.

Photo of book fair in Buenos Aires, Argentina by Raúl Farias and used with permission.

One such author, Raúl Farias of the blog Al Lado del Camino [es] has traveled all around the world and has seen areas where readers have a wide selection of books, making reading such a central part of life in those cities. However, in his city of Guayaquil, where temperatures can reach the in the mid 30s Celsius with high humidity, there are no “book routes,” where one can buy literature. Instead there are alternative locations such as:

las esquinas de ventas de periódicos (debajo de los semáforos), en las afueras de la terminal de buses, en estériles sitios como farmacias y supermercados (además de las dos grandes librerías ubicadas en los centros comerciales, porque las del centro parecen más tiendas de útiles escolares), entre jeringuillas, pañales, frutas, embutidos y lácteos.

corner newsstands (under the traffic lights), just outside the bus terminal, in sterile places such as pharmacies and supermarkets (in addition to the two major bookstores located in shopping malls, because those in the shopping center seem more like a school supplies store), mixed with syringes, diapers, fruit, sausages, and dairy products.

However, in many of these places Farias sees that there are only books from well-known international authors such as Paulo Coelho. Local Ecuadorian artists are not featured as prominently.

No matter where one might find books to purchase, it still remains an important part of Ecuadorian society. Another author, Eduardo Varas, writes in his blog Libros, Autores y Riesgos [es] that due to popularity and interest in literature, officials often see it as an opportunity to spin the event in a political manner. For example, it was during the launch of the book El Viajero del Siglo (The Traveler of the Century) written by Andrés Neuman that took place in Quito, when Ecuadorian cultural officials said there was a relationship between the book and the government's “Citizen's Revolution.” Varas wonders why can't they leave literature alone:

¿Dónde está el problema de estas cosas? En que uno siente de manera abierta que las personas llamadas a dirigir o moverse en un espacio de servicio (no de poder) observan en el público o en los asistentes a un acto como ese a una bandada de estúpidos que podrá aceptar lo que sea, sin chistar. El concepto por encima del sentido común. Los aplausos a Salazar fueron pocos… la estupidez existe. Disculpen la dureza, no es mi intención ofender a nadie, pero no existe peor sensación para mí que me traten como tarado en actos como ese.

Where is the problem with these things? Where one feels openly that the people in charge should steer or move in an area of public service (not of power) finding the public or those attending an event as this, as a flock of stupid people that may accept anything, without any grumbling. The concept goes beyond common sense. The applause for (Vice-Minister of Culture) Salazar was small … stupidity exists. Sorry for being so harsh, it is not my intention to offend anyone, but there is no worse feeling than being treated like a moron in gatherings like this.

Another potential frustration may come when an author finds his or her pirated work being sold on the street. It is estimated that piracy in Ecuador has left 15,000 unemployed and with more than 66 million dollars in losses. How much of this comes from the authors’ pockets is still unknown. However, one author Rafael Méndez Meneses does not worry about that issue. He just wants his work to be available to his readers, and goes as far to say:

El día que demanden a alguna loca por sacarle copias piratas a mis libros y regalarlas por todos lados, o por dedicarse a publicar en blogs todos mis puemitas todos, me prendo fuego.

The day that they sue some crazy lady for making pirated copies of my books and giving them away everywhere, or for publishing all my poems on blog, then I'll set myself on fire.

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