Paco Ignacio Taibo II (Gijón, 1949) considers himself an Apache who has spent his whole life reading. Son of Republican exiles, best-selling writer, promoter and editorial activist in front of a project of dissemination of reading, in less than a week he will take office as the new director of the Fondo de Cultura Económica (FCE), the largest public publishing house in Spanish, with more than 80 years of history, 28 bookstores in Mexico and presence in the US, Spain and eight Latin American countries .
By way of the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), this Wednesday confirmed that the legislative procedure that unlocks the prohibition of directing a public company for Mexicans who are not born: "We got them doubled, comrade," he said at one of the tables at the fair, raised a strong media dust.
Just one hour after his penultimate controversial statement, he attends EL PAÍS to talk about the strong polarization that his figure provokes and to advance the details of the new project: the merger of the FCE with the public library network Educal, the General Directorate of Publications and the national reading program. The new aircraft carrier of the public book in Mexico with Taibo in front.
Question. How do you respond to criticism that you fear a distortion of the editorial work of the Fund with the merger?
Answer. The Fund is like a king walking naked and nobody dared to say it. It is an institution replete with historical virtues and defects. The last administrations have dedicated themselves to making books for friendly officials and bookstores that do not have previous studies or logic.
P. What changes are planned?
R. Recover the original work of the Fund, the spirit of Arnaldo Orfila (his second director). They say that the Fund was fundamental for the illustrated circuit of thought, but enlightened we are the Apaches that we are going to reach, that we have been reading all our lives. We will keep alive the collections of history and economy, in addition to recovering the popular, which became a collection where there are books of 300 pesos. My experience of the Brigades (your editorial project) is key. We have lived doing fairs with balance books throughout central Mexico. We have almost 2 million books given with the support of the authors. I will continue with the publication of the breviaries, we will conserve the children's collection and we will maintain the dissemination of science. In addition, we will publish graphic novels at affordable prices and create a new collection, the most popular, to reach peasant communities with books of 10 pesos.
P. Nourishing universities is one of their traditional functions
R. The new alliance policy will work with public institutions that need our support and private institutions with which to co-publish books that are now being imported from Spain at 28 euros and reissue them to five. I am willing to debate, because it will help me correct. An intelligent director does not publish to his liking, publishes to the taste of his possible readers. And that I have to learn. An example is that we will keep the children's book collection created by the last administration.
P. Will it expand the library network?
R. Sure and we will create peripheral and secondary distribution channels.
P. With what money? The last government report of the entity says that it is expected a cut of almost 20% by 2019 and Educal is on the verge of bankruptcy
R. These are estimates. After the meetings with the Treasury it seems that we are going to keep the budget of last year. As for Educal, I have to start renegotiating debts with suppliers one by one. In exchange for private publishers returning to put books in our bookstores. It's complicated. Both in editorial policy, bookstores and promotion of reading you have to go case by case.
P. Educal has considered closing half of the bookstores if it does not get more funding
R. Our three inviolable maxims will be: we do not close bookstores, we do not destroy books, we do not lay off workers. How the fuck do we do this? There is a capitalist logic that commercial inefficiency must be killed. But the Fund is a company guided by social objectives that in this case go through to double the reading of this country in the next six years
R. With the national reading plan that we will assume and with the support of other government bodies. With their budgets we support them in social programs with elements of reading.
P. How will the management structure of the new Fund be?
R. We are going to save money. There are tripled functions. We are going to create a bookstore director, a distribution director and an editorial board made up of 8 line managers, not necessarily linked to collections. And weird things, new charges for new times like a hunter of foreign contracts or a permanent visitor from all over the country.
P. Does it contemplate dismissing workers?
R. There are many charges that earned unsuspected money for doing unsuspected work. Your contracts end and we will not renew them. We will absorb the high charges of the three devices. But it is not my pleasure to act as a head cutter, but as a cutter of corruption. We have found several and we are going to clean the house with a machete.
P. What corruption cases?
R. They will know in their day because I have to have well-founded and I do not want to advance figures.
P. But they are already working with figures.
R. Yes, I have discovered that I have 3.2 million books in warehouses. What do I do with that? Why are they in warehouses? For now, we are going to do a garage sale with zero cost and the collaboration of town halls.
P. In what condition is the branch network?
R. The network is losing 2 million dollars a year. You have to shape it, clean the house one by one.
P. Do your critics fear that you will cornered canonical authors of the catalog as Octavio Paz and publish related authors?
R. How do they know what I am going to publish if I have not published the publication plan? I have already said that the Fund will never publish a book of mine, neither of López Obrador nor of any official of this government. It is part of the president's moral code. There is a lot of carrion in this environment that tries to stop me in advance, the same as López Obrador. If it bothers them, for example, that they publish a Nobel prize like William Golding, they should say so. What we are going to do is to clarify deeply the number of potential readers of a book to see the format that we give it.
R. What we can not do is continue with editions of 5,000 copies. We go to digital. We are thinking of inventing a system through which we will publish, for example, collections of complete digital works. We will give a copy to all the libraries that have literature and history of Mexico. And we will enable a telephone so that if a historian needs it, we will give him a diskette.
P. Will you reach the money?
R. We're going to do miracles, that's why they sent me here. And if something I have done throughout my life is a lot of miracles.
P. How do you think the environment will be these years?
R. There will be slaps until you get bored, I will be in the pillory every day. Now, whoever thinks he can insult without being answered, is wrong.
P. Are you not afraid that this will cause tension and tension?
R. It's okay. The more controversial you create the more readers you approach.
P. And at the political level?
R. Andrés Manuel accepted that I was his little bit of the left wing. Well then.