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.