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David Felipe Arranz: «The paper book will never disappear».

David Felipe Arranz: «The paper book will never disappear».

David Felipe Arranz: «The book is a message in a bottle that we throw into the sea of oblivion and that will continue to float».

On June 1, the Small Publishers Commission of the Madrid Publishers Association presented the Bibliodiversity Awards 2023. The awards recognize institutions, media, and personalities that support independent publishing. One of the award winners was David Felipe Arranz, director of the radio program El Marcapáginas, who received the Bibliodiversity Award «for his fierce defense and promotion of the work of hundreds of small publishers, making visible not only their books but interviewing and publicizing the names behind this trade, worthy of social recognition.» On this basis we wanted to know a little more about your motivation to spread culture, focusing on the book sector, for more than two decades.

You have been awarded the Bibliodiversity Award for your continuous work to spread the work behind the books we read. How do you receive this award?

With great enthusiasm, because it is given to me by the Madrid Publishers Association, the publishers themselves, and book artisans who struggle and sacrifice so that we can enjoy so much knowledge and such extraordinary titles as those published in our country. And the message that they give me, that they give us, is clear: we must continue in the cultural and media trenches, whatever the cost, even if we are few. Support for literature from the media platforms is truly indispensable. In addition, the statuette, designed by the Leonese sculptor José María Morla, represents Quevedo holding with both hands the carnation and the rose and gambling his neck before Queen Isabella of Bourbon, who represents me personally, is my literary reference and to whom I dedicate much of my academic research. Thanks to the president of the AEM, Manuel González Moreno, to his vice-president, the editor and writer Paulo Cosín, and to the more than one hundred editors who voted for me. I am very grateful to them.

Your radio program El Marcapáginas is the one that has allowed you to publicize smaller publishers and workers who have had a loudspeaker thanks to this space. Do you remember any anecdote that always comes to mind from these 23 years of broadcasting?

I remember the first time as if it were today. I had just graduated in journalism from the Carlos III University of Madrid and I went to see my teacher César Antonio Molina, then director of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, a highly educated person and tireless worker, with the program project. To my surprise, he told me to start the following week on Radio Círculo, the radio station he had created, because he loved, as I did, the mass dissemination of culture, and the power to enrich the media world with cultural journalism. Those were precious moments that I will always carry in my heart. Another time, in the transition from one station to another, in January 2016, I brought a mariscada and French champagne to celebrate and the director and the journalists of the station, who could not give credit, joined the party and it was very nice, an hour before going live. I did the program very ‘happily’. The technician told me in the middle of the broadcast: «It’s the first time I’ve seen Galician barnacles in the station» and I couldn’t stop laughing. Episodes of irrepressible laughter live I have had several and I end up literally crying and I have to put music or announcements, because I really enjoy the sense of humor, it seems to me indispensable to live. And in June 2018 the awarding of the Silver Antenna was a very important support at a difficult time when my strength was flagging and I was about to throw in the towel, because this program I do it alone, and there are times, the truth, when I do not find the strength because it is only a part of my professional life, fortunately. Otherwise, I would be living under a bridge.

David Felipe Arranz

In your speech at the awards ceremony, you highlighted the paper book as something fundamental. With technology changing our daily lives, how do you see the future of the book?

The paper book will never disappear, it is the most resistant and miraculous cultural artifact that exists, of popular consumption, and accessible to all educational and pocket levels. Not even the cinema offers so much resistance, because at the beginning of the 20th century and even in the 1920s hundreds of films were lost in the United States and Europe, films of which we only have the production references or the expense and contracting account. The book is a message in a bottle that we throw into the sea of oblivion and that will continue floating, it is what will remain when, as Agustín Díaz Yanes titled it, no one will remember us when we are dead. Let us have no doubt that we will be dust in love, as Quevedo said, but those ashes will have some meaning thanks to the book. Look at these 23 years of broadcasting: most (all) broadcasters have destroyed copies of El Marcapáginas when I have changed media, not only of my program but of almost all the spaces. We are not friends in taking care of what is ours: on the contrary.

Of all the activities that are organized within the book production chain, which one do you admire the most?

That of the authors, the origin, the illusion, the confidence in front of the blank paper, the difficulties to find the words and transfer the ideas to the word processor, and the work afterward with the editor, which is like modeling the final work. This is the fundamental tandem. Then comes everything else, but for me, the origin is in the human mind and in the poetry of the writing, that rare miracle that nobody knows how to explain yet.

What challenges do you think the book sector is facing in the short term?

The paper book will remain the same for another five hundred years and when the human species becomes extinct, a space traveler from other worlds will dust off the remains of my library and will know me as I was and will know about us. Gregorio Marañón used to say that a man’s library is also his portrait, «and so fine that neither the most accurate brushes nor the most penetrating and faithful pen of the best biographer can match it» or, as the wonderful physician and scientist thought, «they are true fingerprints of the spirit, which allow its exact identification». Another thing is the fall of young readers in the passage from childhood to adolescence, due to cognitive and hormonal changes: that is where the effort must be made. As a professor of Communication at the Carlos III University of Madrid, I am very concerned about the latest results of the PIRLS report, which has just revealed that our students not only regressed ‘significantly’ in reading comprehension since 2016 but also that very few are placed in the group of advanced readers. We must turn our gaze to the great masters: George Steiner, Gore Vidal, Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes, and Harold Bloom… They, from the pages of their essays, will continue to guide us in the world of books. We must fight the battle and encourage the critical sense, awaken emotions, and try to make our young people better every day and overcome small intellectual challenges because they are wonderful and they are the future of the country, which is already present.

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