Finding some real Basque literature before my Bilbao mini-readathon was a tough challenge!
Most books I managed to find were available in Spanish, but close to impossible to find in English.
And no wonder! Euskera or euskara is one of a handful of non-Indo-European languages in Europe, sitting next to Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian and Maltese.
Euskera outnumbers Icelandic when it comes to speakers of the language, and it’s by far more encountered than, say, Kaixana or Taushiro (yes, I googled rarest languages on earth).
However, it is only spoken by ~700.000 people. Which is a real shame, for apparently there is some seriously exquisite and original literature made in Basque.
According to the ELI catalogue, a database which collects translations from Basque literature into other languages, there have been only (!) 103 translations published in English.
I chose 3 (more accessible) books for my trip to Bilbao, and here they are:
For my first choice of Basque literature, I chose a collage of stories in Bernardo Atxaga’s Obabakoak .
Originally written in Basque, the book was luckily translated into Spanish and made available to the world!
In the prologue, Atxaga compares euskara language to a hedgehog, which is quite inspired, since both the language and the animal share several attributes: small, strange and unforgettable! 😉
The stories are varied and original, there’s something there for everyone.
The book starts with the story of a half-German, half-Basque boy growing up in Obaba, whose father, you learn, concocts a brilliant scheme to ensure he does not become just another village boy lost in the small village of Obaba – you can catch subtle references to the marginalization of the Basque people here.
There are tales of many things and places: terrorists in China, white wild boars, shepherds and priests.. all original, all half ironic, half metaphoric..
But I’ll let you discover them.
Un tranvía en SP
Un tranvía en SP by novel that really revolutionized the Spanish literary scene with its originality.
The plot centers around an old traveler who dreams of reaching Himalayas despite the fragility of his mind, a musician who tries to find his place in the world and finds love in Rome. And an anonymous writer in search of the happy moment that gives meaning to life.
Youth and old age, humor, wisdom and wonder… And in addition, I have challenged myself to reading this in Spanish!
Wish me luck!
And for the twist:
This is a more particular choice, since it’s not even a book, originally.
Ocho Apellidos Vascos
Known as Spanish Affair in English, this is a…surprise! Spanish comedy film directed by Emilio Martínez-Lázaro. It became the second biggest box office hit ever in Spain when it premiered, just trailing Avatar.
Classic story of boy meets girl, but! it apparently really truck a chord with Spanish people, as it’s thick with local references of Andalusia and Basque country
So I figured: OK fine, it’s not literature.. but they made a book out of it!
So, I will try my hand at reading a book which is a remake of the film! (this one too, in Spanish)
Not too many reversed-engineered, movie-becomes-book, huh?
I have a feeling this readathon is going to be special..
Stick around for the book reviews 😉 !