Author aramburu: still many open wounds in the basque country

Author aramburu: still many open wounds in the basque country

In his award-winning novel "patria," basque author fernando aramburu writes about home, loss and friendship.

For the author, who has lived in germany since the mid-1980s, germany’s approach to its past was also a way of approaching the conflict in the basque country and a possible reconciliation with the perpetrators.

The novel, which was published in spain in 2016, has now been published in german (rowohlt). For "patria", the 58-year-old aramburu received the spanish literary prize premio nacional de la critica, and the work has been translated into twenty languages. HBO espana is also planning a film version of the story.

Patria" centers on two women – bittori and her neighbor miren – and the impact of terrorism on the lives of people in the basque country. The protagonist bittori lost her husband txato twenty years ago. He was murdered by terrorists from the basque separatist organization ETA. She now wants to return to the old house and village and live again among those people who were silent at that time.

Among them is her former neighbor miren. Twenty years ago, the women were best friends. Now miren is avoiding the returnee. The reason: miren’s son is imprisoned as a terrorist. Bittori fears that the young man has something to do with the murder of txato.

The underground organization ETA fought for decades for an independent basque country; more than 800 people died in attacks. In 2011 the separatists announced to lay down their arms.

The situation today in the basque country is much better than it was during his childhood, said author aramburu in a conversation with the german press agency in berlin. Because there are no more attacks. This makes a debate possible without insults and without violence. "But that does not mean that we live in paradise, there are many open wounds."He did not want to write about ETA, says aramburu, but about personal experiences: "how did this mother act, how did this son live?? What was the first day like after losing your father??"

"Patria" means fatherland. Author and translator made a conscious decision not to use the german word as the title. The word vaterland leaves a bad taste in german because of its links to the nazi past, says aramburu.

He was inspired by the history of his adopted country, says the writer. "In germany, it was the generation in the 60s that finally asked, sent historians to the archives and dug up all the shame of the country."But 20 years had passed since the horrors of national socialism, and the collective memory had not been handled very well.

In the basque country there is now a kind of silence about the event, against which he wanted to write "patria". "It doesn’t mean that i’m right, but i think we have to talk about it, we can’t be silent, because the following generations will ask us questions and accuse us."

The novel developed over years in his subconscious, he adds. It took him a while to find the right approach and tone. He is not afraid of being misunderstood. "I know that a book, when it is complex, opens many interpretations."Each reader approaches the book with his or her own personal experience.

His next work, however, is to go in a different direction: in march, "autorretrato sin mi" will be published in spain. (german roughly: "self-portrait without me"). The book of 61 prose stories is a very personal, but not autobiographical work, aramburu emphasizes. "In it i deal with the themes that i consider essential in the life of every human being: the night, music, the father, loneliness, fear, laughter, and the world … Every reader can find himself in the 61 pieces."

Fernando aramburu: patria. Translated by willi zurbruggen, rowohlt, 907 p., 25 euro, ISBN: 978-3-498-00102-5

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