Imagine living in a world where books have become so obsolete they've been banned forever?
This is the theme of dystopia written by Fausto Panicacci, “The Silence of Books”. Books, in this reality, are objects that no longer make a difference in the midst of a world full of technology – and more than that, people can't find the fun in reading something that will not please them in the end: each one wants let the book end the way it wants, and not just books, but movies and all kinds of things consumed by humans. In “O Silencio dos Livros”, the only books that CAN be read and sold are those with several options in which the reader can choose how the ending of the story he is following will be.
And that's where we meet Alice, a little girl who is left out by her parents and younger sister, who care most about herself and the technology around them and don't understand why the girl likes to follow her grandmother's reading habit. of the girl and much less support that she even have a book, after all, having books is a crime in that world. And then Alice meets Santiago, a man who moves in next door to hers, who is kind of mysterious, but more than that, he's a great storyteller.
"- I understood. Am sorry. – Sorry why? You don't even know me. Why would you care about my damn childhood?
Well, for the same reason you risked your life for me, a stranger.”
Soon Santiago also meets the girl's parents and becomes part of that house and that family, being accepted by them and ending up uniting the family as best he can while spending a few dinners with them and in the end always ends up telling one or another story of the so many he knows. One day Santiago loses a notebook that he always carries with him and which is written on the cover as “Hilário Pena”. Of course, curious as she is, little Alice is tempted to read it there, but decides that it wouldn't be fair to her new friend to snoop around his things like that, she decides to simply return it to the man, but the question remains: who is Hilário Pena?
In this, going back in time, years before the ban on books, we met Hilário Pena, right at the time when the world is beginning to change with scientists believing they can figure out which person will be a criminal using tests that show if people have that gene from violence and whether he would ever be awakened. Hilário ends up getting into a mess in which a man is killed and even though he shouts at the four corners that no, he had nothing to do with it, he was not the one who committed this crime, he is taken to jail and tested and to Surprise everyone, Hilário doesn't have the violence gene, so what kind of plot would be around this and how would all this be happening to the young man?
“Although very few people at that time gave importance to books, the threat of banning them led to strong resistance, and marches were organized in defense of the right to read – “when you try to pull roots from the earth, soil and roots resist”, illustrated the Portuguese .”
We spent several years following Hilário in prison, trying to unravel with him the details of what happened that fateful night and we also ended up being introduced to a new character, a man who is also going to prison, several years after Hilário and simply because he was smuggling of books, now banned from being distributed around and as the pages turn, the questions only increase:
Who is Hilary? What is his connection with Santiago? Why was he arrested, if he doesn't have the gene then how is he the perpetrator of such a brutal crime? In addition, we still have the motto “festina lente” (“hurry up slowly”) that we can see in several passages in the book, along with its symbol which is a dolphin with an anchor. What does this mean for those people?
The answers to these questions I cannot give because they are too much spoilers, but what I can say is that this book is very much worth reading.
“You know, some say that man is the fruit of the environment; others, which is a product of genes; maybe there is a little bit of it all; but I think that, fundamentally, it is the result of the books you read; or, in these sad times, those you don't read. ”
Santiago is such a good character, even with all the mystery that surrounds him and a person who is truly passionate about books like the rest of us. Hilário, in the time we follow him, we see him evolving from a simple young man to a cultured man, willing to learn about things, even about literature, which as he says in several passages “is something that is not for him”.
We can fall madly in love with Antonio, who creates in Hilário this desire to know more about books and learn to devour them and the pleasure we all feel when flipping through a story and throwing ourselves into it. After Alice, he is probably my favorite character and the part of the story where he appears should be appreciated by everyone who also feels this strong love for books.
"We must resist everything that dehumanizes us, and the elimination of good old stories, of books, is a sure recipe for dehumanization."
And then there's Alice, sweet little Alice, who all she wants is to be a more "knowing" person as she says, who is completely neglected by the family that should love her and finds in the arms of a complete stranger the encouragement that she needed to be who she will become in the future – and that I can't talk about either for spoiler reasons! Alice is definitely my favorite character, I don't know if it's because she's a kid and like all the other kids she has that sincerity when talking about things, even what no one wants to talk about, or because of her innocence of having no idea about what things are going on around her and, as she says, the adult world is full of lies and quite complicated. It's nice to see it from her point of view, with the sweetness only a child could have in such a screwed-up world.
"While the world decreed the death of books, trying to silence them, they resisted: far from the daily hubbub, the noise of cities, the horns of cars, the noise of appliances, the empty chatter, the silence of the books was not deathly , as they sought to impose on them, but of music.”
“The Silence of the Books” is a book that, I'm ashamed to assume, I probably wouldn't have known about if it weren't for the collective reading, because it's not usually the kind of book I read, but I can pretty much say that it would be a wonderful read that I would be missing.
The way Faust built this world, how everything is explained, as painful as it is, shows us how technology really, despite being a good thing, can end up destroying many things if not used correctly - as well as all great inventions really, besides showing that all it takes is one wrong choice, one action, to transform our whole reality and everything around us, is very close to reality: even more in the way things have been lately.
Everything around all the mysteries is solved in a very well thought out and created way, and each page is a passionate declaration of love for books and literature and everything that this universe brings us and teaches us. Besides the ending being the kind I like a lot: it is a very bittersweet ending, a happy ending that at the same time is not so happy, exactly like our life is.