Category: Basque Books (page 1 of 11)

Getting to Know Basque Books: From Bizkaia to Boise: The Memoirs of Pete T. Cenarrusa

While reading Bizkaia to Boise I couldn’t help but have the image of Pete Cenarrusa as the dashing male protagonist in a Golden Era of Hollywood film directed by Frank Capra. He fit the role perfectly, a child of Basque immigrants, grew up on a ranch and knew all about agriculture, did not speak English when he first went to grade school but worked his way to become a graduate at the University of Idaho, a fraternity member, a skilled boxer, a Marine Corps pilot that served in World War II, and a passionate teacher and politician. He was friendly, caring and determined. If his life story could have been written about 60 years earlier, you just know it would have been adapted into a screen play and Cenarrusa would’ve been played by the likes of Jimmy Stewart or Carey Grant. There was no doubt that Cenarrusa was a classic example of a true American man.Bizkaia to Boise book cover

All the while, Cenarrusa was still undeniably Basque. The child of Jose Mari Zenarruzabeitia-Muguira from the countryside of Munitibar and Ramona Gardoqui from Gernika, Cenarrusa always spoke Basque at home. His interest in his heritage extended to his time at University of Idaho, where he was often found at the library researching the current events of Euskadi, which at the time were troubling, WWII was brewing and he researched as well the recent bombing of his mother’s hometown of Gernika and the dictatorship of Franco. Based on this research, Cenarrusa was up on and involved in Basque politics for the remainder of his life, and even planted three seedlings of the tree of Gernika in the Boise.

Lt Governor Brad Little with Pete Cenarrusa from Emmett, Idaho via Wikimedia Commons

Lt Governor Brad Little with Pete Cenarrusa from Emmett, Idaho via Wikimedia Commons

It is clear that Cenarrusa was a person of great character, even in the arena of politics, where most people reputations are tarnished and their worst sides are pointed out, Democrats and Republicans alike couldn’t say much bad about Cenarrusa. It seems that in the end, Cenarrusa just wanted the best for his family, his state and his country, and was one of the few who got in and took action to do what he thought was best for the future. In the end, I think the best way to summarize this book is a quote from the intro of Bizkaia to Boise written by C.L. “Butch” Otter: “There is no one I know in the public life who is more respected, more admired, and more beloved than Pete Cenarrusa. After reading this book, I think you’ll know why.”

Getting to Know Basque Books: My Mama Marie

I read My Mama Marie by Joan Errea about a month ago and while reading it, I was reminded of the summer vacations my family and I would take to my mom’s childhood house outside Enterprise, Oregon. My mom’s family raised sheep when she was growing up and have been in and out of the ranching business for generations, so there were many stories in My Mama Marie that reminded me of sitting around in my mom’s childhood home looking through old photographs, letters and books, while my older relatives told stories that we had all heard a million times and walking around the hills of rural Oregon that used to be my grandfather’s sheep’s grazing grounds. Both the book and the experiences I have with my mom’s family are a way of understanding people who have been gone for years, that we can only know through the memories of others and photographs and trinkets they left behind.

Family is a complex and defining part of life, often shaping the foundation for the way we live and view the world through the course of our lives. Errea in her book My Mama Marie shares her memories of growing up on the ranches of rural Nevada, focusing on her relationship with her mother, Marie Jeanne Goyhenetche.

Farmland near Enterprise, Oregon by Adam Vogt via Wikimedia Commons

Errea goes through the course of her mother’s life starting with her childhood in the French Pyrenees to her immigrating to the United States and starting a family with Errea’s father, Arnaud Paris, on the ranches of rural Nevada. My Mama Marie is full of stories of celebration, heartbreak, love and understanding. Though there are many stories of what it is like to live on a ranch and what it is like to live in rural Nevada, My Mama Marie is at its core a story about how a daughter begins to understand her mother, which I think is why in the end it is so relatable.

Currie, Nevada Depot by Mark Hufstetler via Wikimedia Commons

At Midnight by Javier Arzuaga

I started loving books about prisons when I was about fifteen, when I picked up The Green Mile by Stephen King, which is still one of my all-time favorites. I then moved onto The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King and I am now beginning to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (which one is technically a short story and the other isn’t technically about a prison, but you get the idea). They are just so gritty and dark, yet hopeful and understanding, usually saying more about life and death through the tales of those who are vulnerable enough to really understand their existential value, than you get out of most books.

 

So it wasn’t surprising when I fell in love with At Midnight by Javier Arzuaga, a book I absolutely adore for three reasons. First of all, the book’s plot itself is fascinating; it is a true account of Arzuaga’s experience as a Catholic priest at La Cabaña, the prison where the accomplices of the overthrown dictator after the Cuban Revolution were held. Arzuaga’s job was to console those who were sent to be executed. Through the process of Arzuaga consoling fifty-five men sent to death, he shares his thoughts on life, death, God and religion, from the perspective of someone whose job it is to deal with these existential topics constantly.

A view of La Cabana, Havana, Cuba, photo by Micheal N. Escobar via Wikimedia Commons

The second reason is this is the first book I had ever read before it was published and it was downright magical seeing the process of publication and seeing something materialize from just words on a screen become a book. It is one nice looking book as well, with the artwork making you feel as though you are walking through the door to the afterlife.
The third reason I loved this book is that, unlike The Green Mile or The Shawshank Redemption, At Midnight a true account, which adds a whole new level to it. Not only is it interesting that this actually happened, but since Arzuaga was an actual person, instead of a character, it gives it a sense of irony and comfort that you can’t get from a fictional book; that the author, who had to deal with so much death, has an afterlife through his accounts of life and death.

 

NOTE from BasqueBooksEditor: Welcome to Carly Sauvageau. Carly is a journalism student here at UNR and has joined the team as our student assistant—and the latest contributor to the Basque Books Blog! Welcome aboard Carly and thanks for sharing your thoughts about this amazing book with us! All you all out there, if you don’t have a copy of At Midnight, you should get one soon 🙂

 

 

 

Presentation of the book “A Basque cry for freedom in New York”

          Josu Erkoreka, secretary of Public Governance and Self-Government of the Basque Government and Iñaki Anasagasti, former Basque senator and Xabier Irujo, director of the Center for Basque Studies have presented a book on José Luis de la Lombana.

           On the 80th anniversary of the speech given by a young non-anglophone Basque at the Madison Square Garden in New York, a book about Lombana has been presented at the Sabino Araba Foundation in Bilbao.
Both authors underlined that the book collects “the incredible trajectory of José Luis de la Lombana, a young activist of the Basque Nationalist Party, born in Gasteiz within a Basque nationalist family, which during the years of the 1936 war and the subsequent dictatorship carried out a great anti-Franco activity calling for peace in Europe and the Americas and for Basque freedom”.
          Erkoreka and Anasagasti -authors of recommended monographs on the contemporary history of Euskadi and the Basque Government, with the collaboration of Xabier Irujo- have detailed during the presentation Lombana’s life trajectory, from his education in Madrid, his participation in the anti-Franco resistance, his incarceration in Gasteiz, his departure to exile in France, his activism in Barcelona where he worked as an editor for the Basque nationalist newspaper Euzkadi, supporting the Basque Government in exile, and, finally, his long years of exile in Colombia.
          The book focuses on Lombana’s intervention at the Second World Youth Congress for Peace that took place in New York in 1938 where he argued against the pro-Franco propaganda in the United States. Lombana was one of the delegates of the Basque Nationalist Party in the World Youth Congress for Peace and during his period of activism in the United States, he made “innumerable observations about American society and the American Basques, establishing bridges between different North American groups and the Basques. All this within the framework of a complex and tumultuous period both in the United States and in the rest of the world.”
          In New York, Lombana who at the time was only 27 years old found a society that was not so uninformed about the war and the Basques. The Americans had followed through the press the ups and downs of the war and had a fairly clear criterion around the Basque reality. But in the end Lombana outlined a rather “pessimistic” approach. In his opinion there was little to be done from America to help Europe in general and Spain or the Basque Country and Catalonia in particular. Very little. Both geographically and intellectually, the United States felt alienated from Europe and its social, cultural and political problems.
          The book also analyzes the first years of the delegation of the Basque Government in New York, three years before the arrival of Lehendakari Agirre escaping from the Nazis in World War II. There are also reports on the efforts to support the Basque Government in France and the United States and letters on the propaganda effort both in favor of Basque nationalism and the rebels and their international allies, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
Xabier Irujo

New Book: Jón Gudmundsson Laerdi’s True Account and the Massacre of Basque Whalers in Iceland in 1615

From the Center for Basque Studies Press Basque Books Bulletin:

New book!

Jon Gudmudsson Laeri’s True Account and the Massacre of Basque Whalers in Iceland in 1615

On the night of September 20, 1615, the eve of the feast of St. Matthew, an expedition of Basque whalers lost their ships in a fjord near Trékyllisvík, Iceland, during a terrible storm. This led to a series of events that culminated in their October massacre at hands of the islanders. The Basque mariners’ bodies, dismembered, would not be buried. However, not all Icelanders saw that massacre with good eyes. One of them, Jón Guðmundsson, better known as Jón lærði (1574–1658) or “the wise man”, wrote an essay on those events in defense of the victims titled “Sönn frásaga” (The true story). Four hundred years later, on April 20, 2015, an international conference investigated various aspects of this tragic episode of the history of Iceland and the Basque Country. The academic meeting took place at the National Library of Iceland with the participation of experts from all over the world. The program, commemorating the fourth centenary of the massacre of Basque whalers in Iceland, was sponsored by the Government of Gipuzkoa and the Government of Iceland and organized by the Etxepare Institute, the Basque-Finnish Association, the Center for Basque Studies of the University of Nevada, Reno and the Barandiaran Chair of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

$26.00
ISBN 978-1-935709-83-1
SHOP HERE

 

If you’re interested in Basque whaling (and comics), you might also like …

Basque graphic artist’s stunning tale of Joanes, a mythical Basque whaler, and his flying whaleboat.

Joanes 1: The Flying Whaleboat

Joanes 2: Whale Island

Joanes 3: Priest of Pirates

Or buy all 3 together and save!

Write! Write! Write Basque stories and win!

It’s time for our writing contest again, so we are calling all Basque storytellers! Tell us you story, win prizes, be published.

Have questions? Send them to basquestudies@gmail.com!

Held in conjunction with the Basque Studies Program at Boise State Unversity

Joseba Zulaika’s “That Old Bilbao Moon” reviewed in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

The latest issue of the journal of this eminent institute contains a glowing review of Joseba Zulaika’s book. Written by Isaac Marrero-Guillamóm, the review opens to the heart of this remarkable book, “This is not a book about Bilbao, nor is it an ethnography of the Basque city. It is, rather, a multi-layered by-product of Bilbao—a book possessed by its history, people, ghosts, and art.”

You should click here and read the whole review, but I want to leave you with the final words of the review:

Ultimately, this book is recommended for those interested in the anthropology of the Spanish transition to democracy. It is also a remarkable experiment in auto-ethnographic writing. Its opening lines are a compelling invitation to the potential reader:

It was the spring of 1999 and a Carnival Monday morning when I returned for a visit to San Felicísimo (‘Saint Happiest’) – the Bilbao monastery where in the 1960s, as a teenager and for almost a decade, I tried hard to become a saint, but was finally expelled, an atheist and suicidal (p. 9).

If you don’t have a copy of this “remarkable” (a sentiment I could not agree with more) book, buy it right now!

Browse here

Echevarria, by Gretchen Skivington

From the Center for Basque Studies Books Newsletter:

The Center is proud to launch Echevarria, a novel in which dialogue is central, and to participate in the celebration of bertsolaritza at this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. In that spirit, here are some more things you may be interested in!

Much of what it means to be human is revealed through language and the spoken word predates its written counterpart by millennia. Indeed, whether we realize it or not, oral culture is at the very heart of the Western cultural legacy with the Homeric epics—the earliest works of Western literature—ostensibly oral in nature. Orality pervades Basque culture to this day and the Center’s publications reflect this fascinating dimension of the Basque experience in general. Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, is, to date, the most detailed study in English of the specifically Basque phenomenon of bertsolaritza–“versifying” or improvised oral poetry that is sung in different formal and informal contexts–and how this art form is part of the global oral tradition of verse. Likewise, Part I of Basque Literary History, edited and with a preface by Mari Jose Olaziregi, is devoted to oral literature, with chapters on the current state of orality as a literary form and the history of bertsolaritza. And beyond those works that specifically address Basque oral culture, it is interesting to note just how deep orality runs in the Basque storytelling tradition, whether it be in the form of tales from the Old Country as transcribed and discussed in Wentworth Webster’s charming Basque Legends, or the New World recollections of Joan Errea in her compelling autobiographical accounts of growing up in a Basque household rural Nevada: My Mama Marie and A Man Called Aita. And what better platform to reflect the influence of the oral culture storytelling craft than in literature for children and young adults? Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees by Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton, is a whimsical story about the adventures of a five-year-old girl, Maite Echeto, her beloved friend Oui Oui Oui, a goslin. Meanwhile, renowned Basque author Bernardo Atxaga’s Two Basque Stories includes two tales framed around the relationship between grandfathers and grandsons that clearly reflect this oral storytelling tradition. Finally, for many examples of early bertsoak from the West, check out Asun Garikano’s Far Western Basque Country!

Echevarria is a new house, a new world, etxe (house) berria (new). It tells one hundred years of solitude and family history in Elko, Nevada and the Basque diaspora. The new family in the West is the necessary and awkward melding of Basque, Mexican, Chinese and Anglo settlers on the frontier. The human family is eternal and inviolable and there is only one story to tell—the intersection of young boy and young girl and the eternity of love. Death is its companion. And at the center of their journey is Echevarria—the Basque hotel.

$20.00
ISBN 978-1-935709-90-9
SHOP HERE

Basque culture, Basque books, and bertsoak bloom in Elko at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The Center’s booth at the Western Mercantile

It was our pleasure here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies to be invited to participate in the 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held annually in Elko, Nevada. This year’s festival was focused on the contributions of Basques in the West and included sessions on Basque arborglyphs, Basque poetry, Basque writing, the experience of Basques in ranching—featuring the insight of longtime Nevada resident and stalwart of Winnemucca’s Basque community, Frank Bidart—only 95 years young!

Portrait of beloved Basque sheepherder and owner—and shepherd of generations of 4-H sheep program participants in the Reno area—Abel Mendeguia, by Linda Dufurrena, on display in the Western Folklife Center

One of the highlights of the whole show was the participation of berstolariak, especially those from the Basque Country including reigning champion Maialen Lujanbio, as well as Oihana Iguaran Barandiaran and Miren Artetxe! The Basque bertsolariak were also accompanied by US Basque improvisers Jesus Goñi from Reno and Martin Goicoechea from Rock Springs, Wyoming. From Buffalo, Wyoming, Center author and musician David Romtvedt participated in many musical venues playing generally with his daughter Caitlin, and they were also a common sight to be seen playing after hours, usually in the company of Ardi Baltza accordionist Anamarie Lopategui. Basque-American author and Elko native Vince Juaristi was also in attendance with his stories of growing up Basque in the US. There were also dance performances by Elko’s Ardi Baltza and Elko Ariñak dancers, the latter being accompanied by Mercedes Mendive and Melodikoa. Popular Basque musical group Amerikanuak played, led by Jean Flesher from Salt Lake City, a true pioneer of Basque culture in the US (as many of the people mentioned here are), with members from as far away as Berlin, Germany in attendance! The Basque show on Thursday night was hosted by the Center’s own Kate Camino. Center friend and author Joxe Mallea presented on aspen carvings and artist Zoe Bray painted portraits of Basques and presented her portraits at the Western Folklife Center. The session on Basque writing featured the readings from My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, Florence Larraneta Frye, David Romtvedt, who read from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space and Elko’s own Gretchen Skivington who presented on and read from her brand new novel Echevarria. And I’m sure I’m forgetting someone or many people, the numbers of Basque participants was truly a wonder to behold.

The Center also participated in the show’s vendors with stand in the Western Mercantile. After hours, the Basque party continued at Elko’s Ogi Deli and the Star Hotel!

We have come a long ways from when cowboys and sheepherders fought range wars in this same part of northern Nevada. It was such a pleasure to be included and for Basque contributions to be recognized by all the cowpunchers! 😉

Dr. Xabier Irujo presents at the 52. Durangoko Azoka

While wrapping up my fieldwork after spending a year here in the Basque Country, I took a day to travel from Bilbao to Durango to see the famous Durango Book Fair. Aside from getting to travel with a friend to this happening scene, with numerous publishers, book stores, and new media, I was able to see a familiar face. Professor Xabier Irujo was presenting his book titled “The Verdad Alternativa“, which discusses the lies and propaganda regarding the catastrophic effects of the bombing of Gernika.  The session was well attended with standing room only, with several from the audience providing follow-up questions.

Congratulations Professor Irujo!  Look forward to seeing you and everyone else at the Center for Basque Studies in January!

 

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