August 22, 2022 | 00:00
The annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Books in the Democratic Republic of Kawefo was about to begin, and after a raucous rendition of the national anthem sung in two tones when the video failed, followed by a ten-minute prayer in five different languages invoking divine guidance in formulating a “coherent, cohesive and comprehensive national book development policy”, the honorable guest speaker’s introduction began, fittingly with the birth of the speaker in the easternmost islands of the country, better known for brigandage than textual poaching.
“Minister Fwefwe could not have arrived at her exalted position at the helm of higher education and cultural development in Kawefan without her deep and constant commitment to the promotion of knowledge, which she acquired through her lifelong immersion in the intellectual foundries of the world”, intoned its introducer. , the current Deputy Minister of Propaganda who everyone knew was seeking the post of Fwefwe in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle. An ex-Naval Colonel who was sacked for leading his men into a rebel ambush while searching for a cell signal on which he could call his mistress, Deputy Minister Penpen had been rehabilitated thanks to the good graces of his cousin , the Palace chef who served President Ongong his favorite dishes. “Who could have known that a chance encounter at the circulation desk of the Manoa Public Library on that fateful day, November 23, 1986, would lead to her elevation from a lowly library assistant to the Chief Czarina of Culture of our Republic?”
“My God,” Dr. Gawgaw mumbled in his corner, “he’s going to tell the whole story all over again, isn’t he?” Gawgaw dunked a nacho in the puddle of cheese in front of him and nibbled it loudly. He sat with a group of old men sporting flowery neckties and silver-tipped canes, with a sprinkling of elderly ladies whispering in an arcane Creole-like dialect. A retired professor of Kawefan history, Gawgaw would have preferred to stay at home in his library, sniffing the dusty bibliochor of his pigskin-bound volumes on Robinaux’s Account of Kawefan Border Crossings, 1773 and admiring the fake Victorian binding of Society in a Centrifuge: Sugar and Colonial Domestication by Kawefo, which he wrote himself. But he had to attend this idiotic convention on behalf of his Society for the Preservation of Kawefan History, to make sure that any new book policy didn’t forget to account for the past, of which he was both the protector and guardian. “Madam Minister, republish our books!
Across the aisle, the Kawefan Educational Publishers Guild had other ideas. “Books are everyone’s business!” And indeed it was, especially for Mrs. Krekre, lifetime president of the guild, the grand dame of Kawefan textbook publishing and supplier of choice for all government inquiries. The guild employed hundreds of moonlighting teachers to write textbooks that met all the requirements of Kawefan’s industry and ideology (the ideology changed every six or 12 years, except for a sudden occasional state between the two), and there was always a need to refresh the story and its interpretation. The new administration was keen to encourage the rumor that the wealth of its ruling family had been founded on ancient treasure, so that new myths were unearthed and stories written about the lost kingdom of Lifofo, to which President Ongong could trace his divine ancestry. New material meant new editions and teaching supplements, all of which required thorough verification by the Department of Public Instruction, where Mrs. Krekre’s patient goodwill ensured everyone’s satisfaction.
Members of the Kawefan Popular Writers League, an association dedicated to the principle of literature as entertainment, for which they have concocted dizzying romances set in the Swiss Alps, honeymoons in deep space, ghost stories of movie stars and murders, were oblivious to the debates on stage. sprees prompted by a secret kimchi recipe. They sipped their winter melon flavored milk tea at their table, sharing stories of their latest forays and antics, and when Minister Fwefwe shouted into the microphone about something that sounded like “social responsibility “, they shouted back and laughed, annoying everyone. , but no one could shut them up or kick them out of the party, because everyone was reading them in their cars and bathrooms, including Dr. Gawgaw and Mrs. Krekre.
The dozen members of Kawefan PEN seemed much less happy. fists. They were led by Professor Mikmik, who had done his thesis on Baudelaire at Harvard but who, after the Vietnam War, had seen the Marxist light and now sported a goatee and wrote incendiary poetry. He had once been friends with Dr. Gawgaw until they argued over which books mattered most in the grand scheme of things. Mikmik was convinced that he was under constant and intense surveillance, especially since his FB account was blocked by friend requests from nubile women posing as masseuses and escorts.
There were spies, indeed, on the convention floor, shuttling from exhibit booth and table to table, delegated by the Inter-Agency Counter-Subversion Agency to locate , expose and denounce subversive literature “in whatever form, format or genre, for the purpose of undermining the faith and belief of the people in a duly constituted authority…”. IACSA officers had attended a workshop at Camp Ngungu, where important questions such as “What is gender? were tackled by retired professors of comparative literature (“A novel, a cookbook, a nursery rhyme!”). Key words like ‘liberal’, ‘gay’, ‘rejection’ and ‘penguins’ were dissected and discussed to lay bare the pulsating insurgent cancer at the heart of Kawefan society.
Agent Pogpog had joined the IACSA after sleeping in his call center job and was now intent on making a name for himself by pocketing his first major subversive author, following the recent high-profile arrests of the Gemgem poets , Kripkrip and Ricric. For the past three hours, pretending to be a graduate student, he had kept Professor Mikmik company, trying to figure out if Mikmik’s autobiographical epic, Seven Seasons of Solipsism, was subversive or not. It contained a line about “the Promethean whisper of unconquered desire,” which sounded oddly rebellious. “It’s totally subversive, I assure you,” Mikmik said, “and if those army fools only knew their Homer, I should have been locked up and shot 30 years ago when that book came out. And then this book would be in its tenth edition!
Inside the convention hall, Dr Gawgaw burped, Ms Krekre laughed and Minister Fwefwe toasted all authors past and present, and their overflowing imaginations.
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