Tag: basque literature (page 1 of 2)

June 29, 1854: Death of first Basque-language woman writer Bizenta Mogel

On June 29, 1854 Bizenta Mogel died in Abando, Bizkaia at the age of eighty-two. She should be considered not just the first women to publish a book in Basque, but the first author in children’s literature in the language.

Bizenta Mogel (1772-1854)

Bizenta Antonia Mogel Elgezabal was born in Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa, in 1772. She came from a literary family. Her brother, Juan Jose Mogel (1781-1849), was also a writer, while her uncle, Joan Antonio Mogel (1745-1804), was the author of what is generally considered to be the first novel in Basque, Peru Abarka (published posthumously in 1881).  Indeed, it was the latter who would play a pivotal role in her education. Orphaned at an early age, together with her brother she went to live with her uncle in Markina, Bizkaia. He taught both siblings how to read and write in Latin, Spanish, and Basque, and she impressed with her obvious intelligence and love of learning.

She married Eugenio Basozabal, with whom she went to live in Abando (now part of Bilbao). He later inherited a printing press on the death of his father, and this helped immensely in her efforts to publish her work.  In 1804 she published Ipui onac (Moral tales), which, according to Jose Manuel López Gaseni, “Translated Basque Literature,” in Basque Literary History (p. 315):

brought together fifty of Aesop’s fables that she translated thanks to her knowledge of Latin, learned from her uncle—the sort of training few women of the period could obtain. The intent of this collection was moralistic and educational, as can be deduced from its subtitle: “Good stories in which young Basque people will find edifying lessons that will help them lead their lives down the right path.” It attempted to substitute traditional stories that, according to the prologue, were considered pernicious and were rejected by the educational institutions of the period.

Moreover, as Mari Jose Olaziregi notes in “Worlds of Fiction: An Introduction to Basque Narrative,” also in Basque Literary History (pp. 140-41), its

significance as the first published work written by a woman also signals the birth of children’s literature in Basque. Although the didactic style and sense of moral purpose is prevalent in the text, we should underscore the importance of the book as a primary example of a new type of fiction as well as being an exponent for a new type of reading public, more literary but still somewhat removed from a more controlled aestheticism. Ipui onak is in fact a translation and adaptation of Aesop’s fables and proved an inspiration for a whole group of fabulists, although in most cases verse was the preferred form of writing. Bizenta’s case is altogether exceptional since it is estimated that only 15 percent of women were literate in the Basque country at that time … It is important to note that Bizenta subscribed to John Locke’s educational model in her work, a model that perceived fables as a useful resort to educate children.

The work was a major success and went through several reprints. Bizenta Mogel went on to publish other books, and she was also a renowned writer of traditional Christmas bertso-paperak (printed verses for popular consumption), but she was most remembered for her first and groundbreaking work. She was also a teacher and interestingly, she was known for her wide knowledge of medicinal plants, a knowledge she put to great use in helping people with illnesses who came to her in search of a cure.

The Center publishes Basque Literary History, edited by Mari Jose Olaziregi, an ambitious work that traces the evolution of various literary styles in the Basque language.

Check out this charming representation of Bizenta Mogel’s life in illustrated form (with commentary in Basque):

 

October 14, 1933: Birth of poet Gabriel Aresti

Gabriel Aresti, arguably the most important poet in the Basque language still to this day, was born in Bilbao on October 14, 1933. Although his father was a Basque speaker, the family did not transmit this language to the young Aresti and he learned it on his own as a young man. After studying business at university, he went on to become an accountant in his home city, but it was in the field of Basque culture in general, and more specifically poetry, that he really made his name.

Gabriel Aresti (1933-1975)

In general terms, he was in the 1960s and 1970s, along with several other writers and artists, one of the leading champions and exponents of modernizing Basque culture and the Basque language. As regards the former, he promoted the idea of poetry as a vehicle for social awareness, as a means of exposing social problems and a medium in which regular, everyday speech could be incorporated; all this at a time of growing social ferment during the latter years of the Franco dictatorship. In terms of the latter, he was one of the most prominent defenders of creating a standardized Basque–known as Euskara Batua or Unified Basque–amid the heated debates over the topic in the 1960s.

In the words of Joseba Zulaika (in his preface to Downhill and Rock & Core):

Gabriel Aresti was the essential poet for my Basque generation of the 1960s. “If you want to write me/You know where I am,” he wrote, “In this most slippery hell/In the mouth of the devil.” It was the hell of Franco’s repressive regime, the endless darkness of his city, Bilbao, turned into an industrial and cultural wasteland. Aresti was the crucified Bilbao writer howling for justice and truth, the vulnerable man of eternal downfall who created a new poetics and a new subjectivity.

Gabriel Aresti died in June 1975.

Aresti’s poetry was published for the first time in English this year by the Center. Downhill and Rock & Core, translated by Amaia Gabantxo and with an introduction by Jon Kortazar, brings together two of Aresti’s key works: Maldan behera (1959) and Harri eta herri (1964). The poems appear in both Basque and English.

Check out, too, Pello Salaburu’s fascinating study of how standard Basque was created in Writing Words. Here, Salaburu talks at length about Aresti’s involvement in establishing this new language.

 

August 22, 1777: Basque writer Joan Antonio Mogel comes up before Inquisition

Joan Antonio Mogel (Also spelled Moguel, 1745-1804) was a priest and writer, and the author of what is generally considered to be the first novel in Basque, the full title of which–El Doctor Peru Abarca catedrático de la lengua vascongada en la universidad de Basarte o Diálogos entre un rústico solitario bascongado y un barbero callejero llamado Maisu Juan–is typically shortened to Peru Abarka.  Although written by the turn of the century, it was not published until 1881.

Born in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, he was ordained in 1770 and appointed the parish priest in nearby Markina, Bizkaia. During his time in Markina, however, he was accused of improper behavior with a young woman and was obliged to declare before a trial of the Inquisition on August 22, 1777 in Logroño. Following the inquiry, he was charged with improper conduct and although the prosecutor called for a prison sentence, he was instead sent to a retreat in Milagro where he began to write in earnest.

Mogel’s work, with representative texts, is discussed (pp. 391-401) in Anthology of Apologists and Detractors of the Basque Language, edited by Juan Madariaga Orbea.

 

 

 

Basque writer Kirmen Uribe selected for fall residency in prestigious Iowa writing program

The Basque poet, writer, and essayist–as well as CBS author–Kirmen Uribe has been selected this fall for the University of Iowa’s prestigious International Writing Program, “a unique conduit for the world’s literatures, connecting well-established writers from around the globe, bringing international literature into classrooms, introducing American writers to other cultures through reading tours, and serving as a clearinghouse for literary news and a wealth of archival and pedagogical materials.” Moreover, Uribe will attend the program thanks to the support of the Etxepare Basque Institute.

Check out the full list of participants, including Uribe and with writing samples, here.

Kirmen Uribe is the author of CBS publication Garmendia and the Black Ridera children’s adventure story set in the Old Wild West.

Downhill and Rock & Core translator Amaia Gabantxo interviewed in Basque daily

The first ever English-language translation of Basque poet Gabriel Aresti’s work by the CBS, Downhill and Rock & Core, is certainly causing quite a splash in the Basque Country. Jon Kortazar, who writes an introduction in the book, has been interviewed on Euskadi Irratia, the main public Basque-language radio station, about he book, and on April 26 the daily newspaper Berria offered an extensive (and lively) interview with Amaia Gabantxo, who was responsible for translating Aresti’s poetry into English.

For Gabantxo, Gabriel Aresti’s work marks a watershed moment for Basque culture in general, hence its importance. In her opinion, understanding Basque culture cannot begin and end with a trip to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; to really appreciate who Basques are, outsiders must be given access to their literature, art, film, dance, and music. And what better way than with Aresti? For Gabantxo, the rock metaphor is most appropriate because, “It’s  no joke, Aresti was a rock star. An anarchic guy, a complete rebel. He broke molds. We Basques don’t appreciate what we have, we’ve been so colonized by what we’ve been told…We laugh at Basque culture, and we don’t get the fact that this is what we’ve been trained to do by the discourse of colonizers. So for sure, Aresti was a rock star, and the English title reflects that.”

As regards the particulars of transforming Aresti’s original work into English-language poetry, she observes that, “the strength of a poem resides on the page, it’s not in the words on paper,  but in that distance between the reader’s eyes and the page. That’s where the essence is. That’s where I translate from, from that essence.”  And moving on to the question of translation (and translators) in general, Gabantxo is quite forthright: “It’s clear in my mind that a translator is a writer. Literary translation is a genre of writing, like theater or poetry. You can’t be a good literary translator if you’re not a good writer.  The history of world literature needs translations to stay alive: translations drive literary traditions and languages.”

See the full text of the interview (in Basque) here.

CBS translation of Gabriel Aresti into English discussed in Basque press

In El Correo Iñaki Esteban recently discussed the Center’s bilingual Basque-English publication of the canonical works of Basque poet Gabriel Aresti; part of our Classic Series that receives generous financial support from the Provincial Government of Bizkaia. As Esteban himself observes, “With English one goes everywhere, and the literature and culture in general of a country need that language as well to circulate in the world. Without translations into the lingua franca of the modern age, books are restricted to their own field of projection, whether written in Russian, Spanish, or Basque.” With this new Center publication, he continues, the “deep hole” of having none of Aresti’s work in English available has been filled. Amaia Gabantxo, who translated the work for the Center, agrees: “We need translations of Basque authors into English so our culture becomes known and so that universities can offer the subject ‘Basque Studies’ … We know other literatures through their translations.”

See the full article (in Spanish) here.

Goian bego Marijane Minaberri

Marijane Minaberri (1926-2017).

The writer Marijane Minaberri–also known by the pen names “Andereñoa” and  “Atalki”–passed away last Thursday. Born in Banka, Lower Navarre in 1926, she was responsible for what children’s and young people’s literature expert Xabier Etxaniz terms “real change” in Basque letters, almost single-handedly creating the children’s genre in the Basque language.

As a child she attended the village school in Banka before transferring at age 12 to continue her studies in Donapaleu (Saint-Palais).  She then went briefly to Angelu (Anglet) in Lapurdi to study for a high school diploma, but was forced to return home to care for her sick mother without completing her studies. In 1948, she took up a secretarial position in the Banka Town Hall, but in 1954 she relocated to Uztaritze in Lapurdi, taking up a teaching position at a Catholic school in Baiona (Bayonne). During this time she also began to work in the local press, first as a secretary for the Basque Eclair newspaper, the Basque edition of the Eclair-Pyrénées de Pau newspaper. Through this position, she began writing occasionally for the paper and met significant figures in the Basque cultural world such as Canon Ddiddue (Grégoire) Epherre, Father Joseph Camino (founder of the Basque-language Pan-pin comic for kids), and the journalists and writers Gexan Alfaro and Jean Battitt Dirizar.

By the 1960s, then, she was already an established article writer for Basque-language media in Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country, contributing to the likes of Herria, Gure Herria, Almanaka, and Pan-pin. She also started broadcasting in Basque on the short spots reserved for the language on Radio Côte Basque, hosting shows on bertsolaritza, children’s programming, and record request shows. Later, she would also collaborate on the Basque-language stations Gure irratia eta Lapurdi irratia.

As part of her regular contributions to the Basque-language press in Iparralde, she began publishing poems and short stories in the 1960s.  According to Etxaniz (p. 297-98 in Basque Literary History, edited by Mari Jose Olaziregi):

Marijane Minaberri published her first work for children, Marigorri, a version of a well-known story, in 1961. From 1963 her stories, collected in the book Itchulingo anderea (The Lady of Itchulin), and her poems published two years later in Xoria kantari favor a love of reading, enjoyment, and entertainment over instruction. Minaberri gave birth to children’s literature in Euskara; in her work, although the moralizing intention is present, the careful language, descriptions, and the narrative itself reveal the author’s main concern to be aesthetic. In this sense, Minaberri’s most literary work is the book of poems Xoria kantari (A Bird Singing, 1965), in which, the reader can find a great deal of repetition, onomatopoeia, and rhyme, making these simple poems suitable for children.

Here is an example:

Euria                      Rain

Plik! Plak! Plok!   Plik! Plak! Plok!

Euria                      Rain

Xingilka                 Limps

Dabila.                  Along

Plik! Plak! Plok!   Plik! Plak! Plok!

Jauzika,                Bouncing,

Punpeka,             Jumping,

Heldu da.             Here comes.

Plik! Plak! Plok!   Plik! Plak! Plok!

Pasiola                  Fetch

Behar da              your umbrellas

Atera.                    now.

Of the twenty-three poems in the book, seven include the words for well-known songs. At the end of 1997, the folk group Oskorri produced a record with lyrics by Minaberri called “Marijane kantazan” (Sing, Marijane) in honor of this writer who never knew best-selling success (marginalized because she was from the Northern Basque Country, a woman, and a children’s writer), but who worked silently and unceasingly on [Children’s and Young People’s Literature] projects.

In 1975, the newspaper Sud-Ouest took over Basque Eclair, and she worked as a journalist for her new employers until her retirement in 1990.

Among her many other works, she also published two grammar books to help encourage the study of Basque in Iparralde, Dictionnaire basque pour tous (A Basque dictionary for everyone, 1972-1975) and Grammaire basque pour tous (A Basque grammar for everyone, 1978-1981), as well as a collection of plays for children, Haur antzerkia (Children’s theater, 1983).

In sum, she remains one of the often unsung heroines of Basque letters in the twentieth-century.

Goian bego.

New Books! The landscape of Basque literature and the Basque Country’s place in the European Union

The publishing season is heating up and Center is proud to announce the addition of 2 new books to our great line up of titles available!

 

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This Strange and Powerful Language, by Iban Zaldua

$20.00 ISBN 978-1-935709-70-1

“This mysterious language, it is very strange, very powerful,” This is how critic George Steiner responded when asked about the survival of the Basque language. Basque is a language isolate, related to none other. It is therefore understandable that Basque literature is mostly unknown, even though much of it is now available in Spanish and English translations. In This Strange and Powerful Language: Eleven Crucial Decisions a Basque Writer Is Obliged to Face, Basque novelist and essayist Iban Zaldua set himself the task of providing a guide for outsiders to contemporary Basque authors.

His concise and readable guide was winner of the 2015 Euskadi Prize, the highest literary honor in the Basque Country. This Strange and Powerful Language is a non-academic work designed for students, teachers, and the general reader. Steiner argued that, while Basque was mysterious and ancient, it was also unimportant— a minor language incapable of supporting a body of literature. Zaldua shows that the truth is just the opposite. Moreover, by choosing to write in Basque, authors inevitably face intriguing literary and political questions of subject matter, point of view, and audience.

As Basque is an isolated language, related to no other in Europe, it is understandable that Basque writers are completely unknown to most readers. Novelist and essayist Iban Zaldua has set himself the task of providing a guide for outsiders to contemporary Basque literature, much of it now available in Spanish and English translation. This Strange and Powerful Language, winner of the 2015 Euskadi Prize for essay, is a non-academic work designed for students, teachers, and the general reader. The title comes from the abovementioned quotation from critic George Steiner.

Zaldua surveys the field of 20th and 21st century writers in Basque, including such acclaimed authors as Gabriel Aresti, Bernardo Atxaga, and Kirmen Uribe, to show that the opposite is true. Moreover, Zaldua demonstrates that by choosing to write in Basque, these writers inevitably faced other dilemmas of audience, subject matter, and style. His witty and intriguing overview shows that Basque is not, as Uribe once described it: “too old, too small perhaps.”  Instead, Zaldua states that a “language like ours presumes a point of difference, and possessing such a differential quality confers a positional, if minor, fleeting, and postcolonial value at the international fair of contemporary literature.” Basque authors, he shows, have earned their place in contemporary European literature; Zaldua’s guidebook will lead the curious reader to explore new writers.

Novelist and critic Iban Zaldua was born in Donostia-San Sebastian in 1966. His previous fiction titles include: Ipuin euskaldunak (Basque Stories, co-authored with Gerardo Markuleta); Gezurrak, gezurrak , gezurrak (Lies , lies, lies); Traizioak (Betrayals) and La isla de los antropólogos y otros relatos (Island of Anthropologists and Other Stories). In 2006 he won the top honor for Basque authors, the Euskadi Prize, for Etorkizuna: hamabost ipuin ia politiko (The Future: Fifteen Almost Political Stories). He is a regular contributor to newspapers and other media in the Basque Country. He currently lives in Vitoria-Gasteiz and is Professor of Economic History at the University of the Basque Country.

Check out a short review of the work at Buber’s Basque Page here.

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Multilevel Governance and Regional Empowerment: The Basque Country in the European Union

$29.95 ISBN 978-1-935709-71-8

How does being part of Europe affect a region, and how does a region adapt to European integration? With the startling vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union – “Brexit” – these academic questions take on real world implications. Borońska-Hryniewiecka focuses on one of Europe’s most fascinating regions – the Basque Country – and its political, economic, and cultural evolution within the structures of the European Union.

Past scholarship on the politics and economics of the Basque Country has mostly focused on issues such as nationalism, ethnic identity, or the problems of terrorism. Until now, there has been no full-length study of the development of Basque economic or political positions within European power structures. What is the effect of European integration on regions and their interests? Does the multi-level structure of the European Union empower or dis-empower regional actors? How does it affect their goals and strategies? To this end, the book provides a broad conceptualization of the notion of “regional empowerment”, presents and explains its different types, and tests them empirically in the context of Basque involvement in European affairs. The questions are not as much of particular policies and their results, but rather how policies are chosen and implemented. Studying “the Basque road to Brussels” and its real-world results helps our understanding of other fissures in the European Union, and problems of autonomy and self-determination worldwide.

This inter-disciplinary work bridges political, economic, and legal dimensions of regional participation in EU policy. The audience for this book includes both academia and the workplace: scholars and students in political science, as well as lawyers, economists, and policymakers, in the United States and Europe.

Karolina Borońska-Hryniewiecka (PhD) is a senior research fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs based in Warsaw and a lecturer at the University of Wrocław. Early in her academic career she became intrigued by the Basque Country, seeing it as a prism for understanding questions of ethnicity, autonomy, and political structures. She explored the role of the regions in the EU as a visiting fellow at the University of Deusto in Bilbao (2010), and a Jean Monnet Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence (2012/2013).

SHOP FOR BASQUE BOOKS HERE

Xabier Irujo to speak on Basque language, writing and exile at the Sabino Arana Foundation

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Andima Ibinagabeitia, Jokin Zaitegi, and Nikolas Ormaetxea, Orixe. Source: Center for Basque Studies Archive.

Dr. Xabier Irujo will speak on the situation of the Basque language from the Second Carlist War until after the Spanish War of 1936-1939. Beginning from the premise of writers like Miguel de Unamuno, who relegated Basque to a second tier, Xabier will lead the audience through the Basque renaissance that happened following the Second Carlist War that continued through the 1936 war, at which time the major impetus for the preservation fell upon the Basques, exiled from the Francoist dictatorship, who carried on this important work in exile, usually in Latin America. Among many others, Zaitegi, Ibinagabeitia, Orixe and Ametzaga were some of the Basque writers and patriots in exile. In this conference, Xabier will treat the importance of translation of these authors who lived in exile in París, Casablanca, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, México and Caracas, and, in general, on the importance of Basque.

The conference will take place at the Sabino Arana Foundation in Bilbao on Thursday, May 19 at 7:30 pm.

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Readers interested in this subject should check out Xabier’s Expelled from the Motherland, and for a bit of a different story of exile, A Basque Patriot in New York by Inaki Anasagasti and Jose Erkoreka.

From the Backlist: Hollywood and I and Mad City

In a literary world that tends to define Basque literature very much by place–most Basque authors come from the Basque Country, live and work there, and typically center their stories on events in that particular corner of the world–Javi Cillero stands out as a completely distinct voice. His own personal experience of detachment, displacement even, from the Basque Country, and especially that of living for many years in the United States, infuses his work to such an extent that it might almost be more accurate to describe him as an American author; or at least as a keen and informed observer of popular American culture, an outsider whose external gaze tells us a great deal about life on the inside.

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In Hollywood and I and Mad City, two works first first published in Basque and collected here in one volume, we are treated to a sharp, quirky, and eclectic blend of short stories that ooze with Americana and emblematic sites of memory in the American West: from Alcatraz and Chinatown to Virginia City, Pyramid Lake, and the Nevada desert. This is a world of dive bars and Mack trucks, casino lights, bank robbers, private detectives, and mobsters; but also of Basque and Native Americans, sheepherders and cowboys, and even college professors and students.

Check out the following excerpt from the book:

The Silver Legacy hotel-casino tower stood tall and proud in the middle of downtown Reno. There was a giant dome on the back of the building, something like a space station. Inside there was a fake starry sky, and under the sky there was a large mine wheel. Hundreds of lasers started twinkling in that sky, accompanied by music by Tchaikovsky.

Near the huge mine wheel there was a wide open area. There were souvenir shops, restaurants open twenty-four hours a day, and slot machines on either side of something like an avenue. And, unexpectedly, the Silver Legacy bar next to a row of slot machines.

As usual, it was full of people. Waiters were going here and there carrying pints of reds, porters, and lagers. The musicians were taking a break, and the people in the bar’s voices easily drowned out the television’s weak sound.

A Czech girl and the Spanish teacher were sitting in one corner. They were silent, each of them looking at their own glasses of beer. The Czech girl poured a little more for the Spanish teacher. He thanked her with a hand gesture.

Here we are, like two Hitchcock characters. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in that old movie Notorious. “Officer Devlin? I’ve got a job for you.” OK, I know, I know: too many movie references for a single night. What can I do about it? Hollywood made me, to paraphrase Graham Greene. Hollywood’s influence is so big in our education that when two friends get together now they could easily be acting out a scene from a movie. We don’t mean to. It’s our only reference. In fact, it’s wiped out family, school, and church references. Young people only pay attention to the images and roles they adopt from screens. And people who aren’t so young, too. It’s impossible to count all the men who wander around like poor wretches from Woody Allen movies without knowing what they’re doing.

The Spanish teacher had gold-framed glasses. They slipped down his nose as he spoke. He had to put them back in their place with his index finger time and again. The Czech girl took that gesture to be an invitation to say something.

“Thanks for helping me present my project. I didn’t think the university press was going to be so interested in heterodox Basque women.”

“We work with all types of subjects. In fact, we’re about to bring out a book by a Japanese writer about Ozu’s movies. It would be good for you to publish the book in Reno. When it comes down to it, the States is the only place where work like that is done. The editor’s told me the book looks very good; it’s very appropriate. And here I am, ready to lend a hand. You know, Officer Devlin’s hand . . . Hey, why don’t you stay a few more days? You’ll be able to make good use of your stay if you come to the Basque Library.”

A big man who’d come to listen to a country group came up to them to take a chair. He picked it up by its wooden back with confidence, master in his own land. The Spanish teacher looked at him with contempt when he turned away.

“And I’ll show you around. Lake Tahoe, for instance. It’s where they shot The Godfather. You know, Al Pacino: ‘My father taught me a lot of things in this room. He taught me to keep my friends close and my enemies even closer.’ I’ve got my Toyota here in the casino lot.”

“Do you have classes tomorrow?”

“I only teach Spanish classes once a week. Hefty nineteenth-century novels, Galdós and Clarín. I spend most of my time in the casinos. I’m putting together a book about Old West mythology. I don’t think America’s final frontier is the Pacific; it’s the Nevada casinos. It’s here that men and slot machines come face to face. Like in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral . . .”

Anyone interested in contemporary urban Western storytelling, with particular reference to Reno, Northern Nevada, and California, will enjoy this book. This is classic Americana with a Basque twist!

Shop for the book here.

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