Thursday, March 17, 2016

Half a Piece of Bread and a Book

ImageFederico Garcia Lorca to the citizens of Fuente Vaqueros (Granada, Spain), September 1931. Transcript and translation:
"When somebody goes to the theater, attends a concert, or goes to a party, if the party is pleasing to him, he immediately thinks of and regrets that the people whom he loves are not present. 'My sister, my father, would really enjoy this,' he may think, and he enjoys the event albeit through a veil of melancholy. This is the melancholy that I feel today, not for my family, which would be small and selfish on my part, but for all those who, due to lack of resources lack the means to enjoy life's beauty, serenity and passion. 
"That is why I do not own any books, because I give them away as soon as I buy them, because they are infinite. And that is why I am here, honored and happy to inaugurate this library, probably the first one in the entire province of Granada. 
"Man does not live on bread alone. If I were hungry and homeless, I wouldn't ask for bread; I would ask for half a piece of bread and a book. I don't criticize those who only speak of economic recovery without ever mentioning cultural development, which is what people really cry for. It is fine for people to eat, but let the people have knowledge. Let them enjoy all the fruits of the human spirit, because the contrary is to transform them into machines at the service of the state, to convert them into slaves of a terrible social organization. 
"I feel more sorry for a man who desires knowledge but cannot have it, than for a man who is just hungry. Because a hungry man can easily satisfy his hunger with a piece of bread or some fruit, but a man who yearns for knowledge but has no means to acquire it, suffers a terrible agony, because it is books, books, and many books that which he really needs. And, where are those books? 
"Books! Books! A magic word that translates into "love, love," and that citizens should demand as earnestly as they demand for food or wish for rain for their crops. When the illustrious Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, father of the Russian revolution more so than Lenin, was being held prisoner in Siberia, away from the rest of the world, between four walls, and surrounded by steppes of infinite snow, asked for help in letters to his far-away family, he only said, 'Send me books, books, many books so my soul doesn't die!' He was cold and didn't ask for a fire, was thirsty and did not ask for water; he asked for books, in other words, for horizons, ladders to climb to the summit of the spirit and the heart. Because the physical or biological agony of the body when it is hungry, thirsty or cold doesn't last very long, but the agony of a hungry mind lasts forever. 
"The great Menendez Pidal, one of the truest intellectuals of Europe, has said that the motto of the Republic should be: 'Culture.' Culture because only through culture can the problems that today plague country that is full of faith but lacks in enlightenment can be resolved."