Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors by Maite Gonzalez Esnal is a beautifully written book about the life experiences of Esnal, all under the three themes; her journeys as an adult linguist, the fruits she associates with her school days (figs and pomegranates) and the neighbors of her childhood home growing up in the Basque country during Franco’s dictatorship.
Journeys, Fruits, Neighbors is one of my favorites of the books we publish here at the Center for Basque Studies Press for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it is written so well, at times it feels as though you are reading poetry, you can see how red the pomegranate juice is, you can smell the coffee the Good Samaritan gives her. There are quotes that cut deeply and explain emotion and memory in a way only fantastic writing can. I was talking to the editor here, Daniel Montero, last week about how the author not only wrote this novel, but did her own translations from Basque to English, and I was amazed. To be this gifted at writing, not only in your native language but to be able to translate it into another language and have such beautiful, almost surreal imagery translate, was an unimaginable talent to me.
This novel, aside from the beauty of it, is also an incredibly interesting story, my favorite being the “neighbors” section of it. It is so heart-breaking, yet innocent, since Esnal wrote it from her experiences as a child, she hints towards tragedy in a way that makes it even more devastating than if she had blatantly said it. Despite the tragedy in the last section, there is a comforting glimmer of hope at the end of the book. The other sections are also great, the “journeys” section being a incredibly detailed travel journal and the “fruits” section being a bit more of a short story collection. It is hard to put this book in a box, which makes it even better. From anyone who liked Eat, Pray, Love to The Book Thief, this book has something for anyone.