Category: Iparralde (page 1 of 9)

June 19, 1920: Birth of famous bertsolari Xalbador

We have already come across one of the great bertsolariak, improvisers, Fernando Aire Etxart, better known as Xalbador, on a couple of other occasions here on the blog. He was present during the events surrounding the creation of the San Francisco Basque Club, as noted here,  and he was involved in one of the most (in)famous moments in the history of bertsolaritza or Basque improvised oral poetry, as recounted here.

A dedication to Xalbador in Urepele. Photo by Harrieta171. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

A dedication to Xalbador in Urepele. Photo by Harrieta171. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Born on June 19, 1920 in Urepele, Lower Navarre, Aire took the name Xalbador from that of the family baserri or farmstead, “Xalbadorenea.” Interestingly, his mother had been born in Los Angeles, into a family from the same area, before returning to the Basque Country.  He remained in Urepele all his life, working as a shepherd, and from an early age discovered a talent for improvising verses. He married Leoni Etxebarren in 1943 and the couple had four children. In his bertsoak, verses, he was serious and at time melancholic, but also highly lyrical and poetic, and was at the top of his game in the 1960s. He died of a heart attack in his home village of Urepele in 1976.

For more information about bertsiolaritza in general and Xalbador, see Voicing the Moment, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, available free to download here.

June 3, 1795: Sentencing for those responsible for Lapurdi deportation

One of the grimmest episodes in the whole French Revolution took place in 1794 with the forced deportation of thousands of Basques from several border communities in Lapurdi, a forced population transfer (long before Stalin’s infamous demographic machinations) that was part of the Jacobin excesses associated with Robespierre’s reign of terror and that resulted in deprivation and death for many innocent people; an event we covered  in a previous post here.

City Hall in Donibane Lohizune (1823). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

City Hall in Donibane Lohizune (1823). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

With the fall of Robespierre and the Jacobins, the Girondins returned to power and set about seeking revenge for their own persecution during the reign of terror. In the Basque Country, this was played out against the backdrop of the deportation, with those responsible being sought out. Thus on June 3, 1795, in Donibane Lohizune, a military judge from the Army of the Western Pyrenees (one of the French Republic’s military forces) sentenced six councilmembers from that town, including the former mayor Alexis Pagès, as well as two people from neighboring Azkaine, to prison for their role in the deportation.

For more information on the French Revolution in the Basque Country, check out Philippe Veyrin, The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, amnd Lower Navarre, available free to download here.

Dr. Ott’s “Evelyne’s Story: A Jewish Basque Infant Heiress versus the General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs”

Last Thursday, as part of the CBS’ Spring 2019 Lecture Series, Dr. Sandy Ott presented a new and fascinating paper, fruit of her archival research last summer in France. There’s no need for fiction with the trove of documents she has found throughout her years rummaging through piles of dossiers.

Dr. Ott began by telling us that her next step in research on the Nazi occupation of Iparralde is to explore more Jewish cases, which she has done with Evelyne Lang’s incredible story of inheritance.

Evelyne’s grandfather, Adolph Lang, was a wealthy land owner with properties throughout France. When transfers of Jewish property to “Aryans” began in occupied France, Lang did his best to circumvent the laws. His son, Robert, had married a Basque heiress, Eliane Etxeberry and together had baby Evelyne. Lang decided to transfer his property to his granddaughter who was just four months old at the time. Casteig, the provisional administrator for the transfer of this property, requested just that from Xavier Vallat, head of the General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, who granted the deed of inheritance. The question is, what motivated them to make this exception?

Within the case, Basque inheritance traditions play a major role. When Robert and Eliane married, they signed a deed of separation of goods, making Eliane the sole owner of her household. According to the Jewish statutes of the time, Evelyne was considered 3/4 Aryan, and since her mother was full Aryan, Eliane could administer the property. Casteig therefore argued that a legal transaction had occurred, aryanizing this Jewish property by putting it in the hands of baby Evelyne.  Vallant never tried to stop the process, even though he was known as a raging anti-semite. Although we may never know what else went on between the Langs, Casteig, and Vallant, Evelyne’s story provides a glimpse into some of the strategies Jewish families carried out to maintain what belonged to them.

As usual, I can’t wait to hear more about Dr. Ott’s research. For those of you interested, make sure to check out Living with the Enemy, her latest book.

 

March 24, 1980: Death of Pierre Etchebaster, greatest real tennis player in history

If you haven’t heard of real tennis or court tennis, then check it out . Not only is it the forerunner of modern or “lawn” tennis, but it has a long and important history. Evolving out of hand ball games not unlike the Basques’ very own pelota, it was the sport of the royal houses of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the famous 1789 Tennis Court Oath in the French Revolution was taken in a real tennis court. And real tennis reputedly has the longest line of consecutive word champions in any sport, dating back to 1760.

Pierre Etchebaster in 1928, wearing his customary txapela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Pierre Etchebaster in 1928, wearing his customary txapela. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Arguably the greatest real tennis player of all time, at least in the modern age, was a Basque, Pierre Etchebaster. Born in Donibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz) on the coast of Lapurdi, in 1893, he naturally grew up playing several of the different types of pelota. Aged eighteen, he was already champion of France in the chistera/xistera variety, the equivalent of what we know today as jai alai or zesta punta. After serving in the French army in World War I he returned to the Basque Country where he continued to excel at pelota.

In 1922 he took up real tennis and became head professional at the Paris court club after auditioning for the post the first time he picked up a racquet! In 1928, already in this thirties, he won his first world championship, wearing his customary blue txapela or beret as a sign of his strong Basque identity. This began a remarkable run of world championship victories, winning his last title in 1954 aged sixty years old! In the meantime, he also spent the 1930s in the United States, where he was a resident professional at the prestigious Racquet and Tennis Club in New York City, where he resided until his retirement in the 1950s.

An excellent athlete, he enjoyed a full and active retirement. He was awarded France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor, in 1955, and went on to publish a coaching manual about the game in 1971. In 1978 he was inducted into the tennis hall of fame. Etchebaster died in the town of his birth, Donibane Lohizune, aged eighty-seven.

Check out this fascinating article on Etcebaster by the New Yorker in 1953.

See also the fascinating book by Olatz González Abrisketa, Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic.

February 1, 1903: Birth of philosopher Maryse Choisy

The journalist, writer, and philosopher Maryse Choisy was born in Doinibane Lohizune (Saint-Jean-de-Luz) on February 1, 1903. She was most renowned for founding a polemical response to surrealism: the suridealism movement.

Maryse Choisy (1903-1979).

Maryse Choisy (1903-1979).

Raised in the Basque Country by wealthy aunts, Choisy studied philosophy at Girton College, Cambridge in the aftermath of World War I. After a brief period of treatment by Sigmund Freud in the 1920s, she became a journalist  and began a prodigious publishing career that also included novels, poems, and essays. Most famously, she took up a position against surrealism, which, she thought, was based on a false interpretation of Freud’s concept of the unconscious. In turn, she published her “Suridealist Manifesto” in 1927. In 1946, she founded Psyché. Revue internationale de psychanalyse et des sciences de l’homme ( Psyche: International Review of Psychoanalysis and Human Sciences) and she subsequently established, together with  Father Leycester King of Oxford,  the Association Internationale de Psychothérapie et de Psychologie Catholique (International Association of Catholic Psychotherapy and Psychology). She was an especially important intellectual figure in interwar Paris and gained even wider renown after founding Psyché. She died in 1979.

October 20, 1620: Unification of the Crowns of Navarre and France

On October 20, 1620, by the Edict of Pau, King Louis II of Navarre and XIII of France formally oversaw the unification of his two crowns, thereby bringing to a close the full sovereignty of the whole of Navarre, a kingdom that had existed independently since 824. From this moment on, the ruling monarch would be known as the King of France and Navarre.

King Louis II of Navarre and III of France (1601-1643), around the time of the Edict of Pau. By Peter Paul Rubens, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

King Louis II of Navarre and III of France (1601-1643), around the time of the Edict of Pau. By Peter Paul Rubens, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By the terms of the Edict of Pau, the Navarrese territories of Lower Navarre (Nafarroa Beherea), Béarn (Biarn in Gascon), and the Donezan (Donasan in Occitan) passed into the hands of the French crown, while another possession, Andorra, would henceforth be ruled jointly as a co-principality. These were all lands with their own highly developed systems of self-government.

By the terms of the Edict, moreover, the Sovereign Council of Béarn was transformed into the Parliament of Pau with jurisdiction over Lower Navarre in the Basque Country (whose own governing authority, the Chancellery of Donapaleu /Saint-Palais, was incorporated into the new parliament). One consequence of this decision was that Basque, which had been used in official circles to that date in conjunction with the other official languages of the Kingdom of Navarre, would be replaced by French as the one official language of the public administration. Moreover, an additional provision of the Edict was that the easternmost Basque province of Zuberoa would now come under the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Bordeaux, thereby separating and differentiating it from its neighbor Lower Navarre.

In one final, and slightly ironic move (in light of the changes that had taken place), by a further edict of 1624, the Parliament of Pau was renamed the Parliament of Navarre, while retaining its location in Pau, Béarn.

 

 

September 8, 1749: Birth of Dominique-Joseph Garat, early advocate of Basque political unity

On September 8, 1749, Dominique-Joseph Garat was born in Baiona, Lapurdi. An important political figure in the Northern Basque Country, he drew up plans, which he presented to Napoleon, to unite all the Basque provinces in one political unit–New Phoenicia–that would have remained an autonomous part of the French Empire. Napoleon, however, rejected the idea.

Garat painted by Johann Friedrich Dryander (1794). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Garat painted by Johann Friedrich Dryander (1794). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After studying law in Bordeaux, in 1777 Garat moved to Paris where he worked as a journalist (covering the American Revolution) and teacher. In 1789, he was elected representative of the Third Estate for Lapurdi and in 1792 he was appointed the minister of justice in Revolutionary France, charged with communicating to King Louis XVI his death sentence. Garat resigned after this decision and was arrested twice by the Jacobin authorities. However, following the Jacobin fall from power, from 1794 to 1795 he led the commission charged with implementing the new educational system and in 1798 was named French ambassador to Naples. That same year, he was elected president of the Council of Elders (the upper house of the French Directory) and later became a senator in Napoleonic France.

Garat, c.1814-1816. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Garat, c.1814-1816. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As a senior statesman, Garat subsequently used his political influence to present a plan to Napoleon to create what he termed New Phoenicia, incorporating all the Basque provinces north and south of the Pyrenees. This would, in Garat’s scheme, be an autonomous political unit within the French Empire, and serve as a buffer state between the French Republic and the Kingdom  of Spain. He lobbied to implement his plan on several occasions between 1803 and 1811, but ultimately to no avail. In part, wider events–including the course of the Peninsular War of 1807-1814 (covered in a previous post here)–hindered the feasibility of the scheme.  After opposing Napoleon during the events associated with the arrival of Louis XVIII on the French throne and Napoleon’s subsequent (although brief) return to power in 1814–15, he retired from his post in the senate. He abandoned politics altogether and settled once more in Iparralde, where, in Basusarri, on December 9, 1833, he died.

Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga discusses the importance of Garat at length in his The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006.  According to Ahedo (p. 53):

Garat is a key figure in the political history of Iparralde for his role after the abolition of the Basque institutions with the triumph of the French Revolution. Furthermore, he is also important for the plans he drew up to unite the Basque provinces of both Iparralde and Hegoalde in one political unity: New Phoenicia, a confederation that would have formed a part of the Napoleonic French empire.

 

June 11, 1967: Xalbador jeered at national bertsolaritza championship in Donostia

On June 11, 1967, one of the most controversial incidents to ever take place in the history of berstolaritza–Basque oral improvised verse–occurred during the national championship in the main fronton or pelota court of Donostia-San Sebastián: on hearing that the bertsolari (improviser) Xalbador had been selected by the judges over a more popular opponent, Joxe Migel Iztueta aka Lazkao Txiki, to advance to the head-to-head final to compete against Uztapide, a section of the audience began to jeer. The reason for this? He was from Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country in France, and they did not understand his dialect of Basque so well.

Xalbador (1920-1976)

Born in 1920 in Urepele, Lower Navarre, Fernando Aire, aka Xalbador, was arguably the most renowned bertsolari in modern times from Iparralde. He began to perform in public after World War II, and by the 1960s was regarded, together with Manuel Olaizola, aka Uztapide, as one of the leading exponents of the art form. However, Xalbador stood out from most of his contemporaries for a number of reasons: first and foremost, he used his natal dialect of Basque from Lower Navarre; besides that, though, he also incorporated melodies that many people in Hegoalde (the Southern Basque Country) were unfamiliar with; and finally, he also stood apart from many of his rival bertsolaris for the sheer lyrical quality of his verses as well as his ability to draw profound reflections from seemingly inconsequential things. Indeed, his poetic sensibility was such that, following his death in 1976, the famous Basque singer-songwriter Xabier Lete dedicated a song to him, “Xalbadorren heriotzean” (On Xalbador’s death), which subsequently became one of the most famous and repeated Basque songs, still sung to this day. And the 1989 national champion bertsolari, Jon Lopategi, also dedicated his winning verse to Xalbador. That all said, he never won a major championship, finishing fourth in 1960, third in 1962 and 1965, and, ultimately, second in 1967.

In the infamous 1967 championship, as mentioned, some members of the audience jeered on hearing the judges’ decision to advance Xalbador to the final head-to-head contest against Uztapide (it should be noted that it remains unclear whether they were jeering the bertsolari or the judges, or both). As per the rules of the competition, Xalbador was obliged to step up to the microphone and compose a verse in response to the decision. As he began his strophe, he found it difficult to make his voice heard, but, gradually, the power and beauty of his words turned the audience around. He sung:

Anai-arrebok, ez, otoi, pentsa
neu’re gustora nagonik,
poz gehiago izango nuen
albotik beha egonik.

Brothers and sisters, do not think
that I am happy;
how much better would I feel
looking on from some corner.

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik…

If you are not happy
it is not my fault…

At this point, the jeers subsided and, incredibly, the audience began to cheer. Xalbador, in turn, his voice barely able to continue with emotion, repeated and concluded the verse:

Zuek ezpazerate kontentu
errua ez daukat ez nik,
txistuak jo dituzute bainan
maite zaituztet orainik.

If you are not happy
it is not my fault:
in spite of your whistles
I still love you.

By the end of the verse the audience had risen to its feet and was applauding the bertsolari from Urepele. The story remains one of the great moving moments in the history of berstolaritza and in Basque culture more generally. This moment was, remarkably, captured on film:

To learn more about bertsolaritza, check out Voicing the Moment: Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition, edited by Samuel G. Armistead and Joseba Zulaika, available free to download here.

Another great resource is Bertsolaritza, El bertsolarismo, Bertsolaritza by Joxerra Garzia, a publication of the Etxepare Basque Institute, free to download here.

On the rich Basque dialects, see The Dialects of Basque by Koldo Zuazo.

 

CBS Professor Sandy Ott receives Outstanding Service Award from the College of Liberal Arts

Dr. Sandy Ott received Outstanding Service Award from the College of Liberal Arts for her service activities during the 2017/18 academic year. Besides her multiple commitments at the Center for Basque Studies including Director of Graduate Students, Sandy also served as Interim Chair at the Department of Communication. Zorionak Sandy!

 

Dr. Ott was recently interviewed about her new book Living with the Enemy: German Occupation, Collaboration and Justice in the Western Pyrenees, 1940-1948. You can find her podcast here:

http://newbooksnetwork.com/sandra-ott-living-with-the-enemy-german-occupation-collaboration-and-justice-in-the-west-pyrenees-1940-1948-cambridge-up-2017/

 

CBS professor Sandy Ott`s new book gets great reception: Listen to Podcast, read review!

“Succeeds beautifully in describing and analyzing the relations between German occupiers and Basques in a place that in some significant ways stands apart from other regions in France. She brings to life the dramatic and complicated ‘hidden’ story of the German occupation and Vichy collaboration in the Basque Country. Ott`s compelling narrative and thoughtful conclusions nuance what we know about French collaboration with the Nazis during the Vichy years.” John Merriman, Yale University

CBS professor Sandy Ott`s book was recently published by Cambridge University Press, and is getting great reception.

In post-liberation France, the French courts judged the cases of more than one hundred thousand people accused of aiding and abetting the enemy during the Second World War. In her book, Sandy Ott uncovers the hidden history of collaboration in the Pyrenean borderlands of the Basques in southwestern France through nine stories of human folly, uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalence, desire, vengeance, duplicity, greed, self-interest, opportunism and betrayal. Covering both the occupation and liberation periods, she reveals how the books characters became involved with the occupiers for a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire to settle scores and to gain access to power, money and material rewards, to love, friendship, fear and desperation. These wartime lives and subsequent postwar reckonings provide us with a new lens through which to understand human behavior under the difficult conditions of occupation, and the subsequent search for retribution and justice.

New Books in German Studies created a Podcast interview with Sandy about her work as an anthropologist in the Pyrenees, which goes back to the 1970s; the inception of the idea of the book; her methods, and her relationship with the subjects of her studies. Listen to the interview below:

http://newbooksnetwork.com/sandra-ott-living-with-the-enemy-german-occupation-collaboration-and-justice-in-the-west-pyrenees-1940-1948-cambridge-up-2017/

Furthermore, Shannon L. Fogg from Missouri University of Science and Technology wrote a great review about Living with the Enemy in German Studies Review. As Fogg concludes,

“Living with the Enemy provides a rich and nuanced view of daily life in the French Basque Country and raises interesting questions about postwar justice. Ott does not shy away from the complexity of wartime interactions and explores the complicated, multifaceted, and ambiguous motivations that lay beneath Franco-German relationships. Drawing on historical and ethnographic methods, Sandra Ott has mined the trial dossiers for what they can tell us about the past, but she is also careful to acknowledge their limits. Her own voice as an anthropologist, one who has maintained relationships with Basque locals stretching back to 1976, adds another layer to her analysis and demonstrates the enduring memories of World War II. The end result is a regional study that contributes ‘greatly to our understanding of the choices people made and the factors that motivated them’ (6), as well as to our ideas about collaboration and cohabitation during the war.”

Read the rest of the review here: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/687383

Dr. Ott also received full professorship at the University of Nevada, Reno.

ZORIONAK, Sandy, for your book, interview, review, and for your full professorship!

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