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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

A brief history of Basque literature

At that time Basque people in positions of power are said to have expressed indifference with respect to Basque culture. A number of events bear witness to this:

  • In 1609 the Assemblies of Gipuzkoa refused to contribute towards the cost of publishing Martin Yanez Arrieta’s book on the Basque catechism.
  • In 1675 the States of Navarre refused to assist P. Domingo Bidegarai in the publishing of his Basque-French-Latin-Spanish dictionary and his book to learn Latin and French.
  • Joanes Etxeberri also experienced similar problems with his town’s municipal council.

As a result of this, many works of literature of that era were lost. Faced with this situation the institution “Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País” stated in its statutes that it was necessary to prepare Basque citizens to understand and enjoy Science, Arts and Art.

Apart from the poor social and economic development of the time, many laws passed in the 18th century caused a great deal of damage to Basque literature. Until then Latin was used in government, education and in formal relations. At that time Romance (Castilian) began to be used and Basque was neglected.

For this reason the deputies in the Assemblies in Gipuzkoa, which was an entirely Basque-speaking province, were required to be able to speak, read and write in Castilian. In the province of Biscay, likewise.

This requirement spread to education and to religious education in particular; as a result, Basque had to endure competition with Latin and Romance right up to the Counter-Reformation.

Castilian was regarded as the language of culture, whereas Basque was the language of farmers, poor citizens and ordinary people.

Speaking Basque at school was forbidden and there were harsh penalty systems to punish Basque speakers. In that situation those who spoke Castilian (priests, nobility, etc.) were regarded as the informed people; they attached too much importance to the language they had worked so hard to learn and totally neglected Basque.

These were difficult times for Basque literature.

Liburuak Gozagarri 2018
Literatur Jarduerak
Idazleak Ikastetxeetan
Gure Programak
2011 Euskal Idazleen Elkartea
Zemoria kalea 25 · 20013 Donostia (Gipuzkoa)
Tel.: 943 27 69 99

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