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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

A brief history of Basque literature

Placing the resources for the spreading of culture in the hands of the people led to an increase in ideologies and to the intensifying of the crisis of ideas. Each sociocultural field and activity would from now on have clearer objectives and spheres.

In literature the diversification and specialisation process became clear, new moulds started to develop, the contents were more diverse, there was a consolidation in the trend to pay closer attention to the internal organisation of works. During that time there was a noticeable trend to endeavour to respond appropriately to socio-political awareness.

Along the lines of Mirande’s unconventional, progressive creation, the existing trends in favour of the literary aspect of the works was to become stronger. Leaving the commitment with society on one side, an attempt was made to go deeper into literary language.


At that time the narrative became stronger with respect to both quality and quantity. The most important innovation was brought about by the “formalist novel”. In this new genre new techniques and structures were tried out: the characters are not the essential thread of the narrative network, but the elements for building the story. The reader is now required to participate, if he or she wants to follow the thread of the novel, because the story is no longer told chronologically. The main writers at this time in this genre were R. Saizarbitoria, P. Urkizu and L. Haranburu.

On the other side of this formalist novel appeared a new type of novel that depicted social problems in clear, direct, popular language: the social novel. Among those who developed it were X. Gereño and X. Amuriza.

Yet the development of the contemporary narrative was not restricted exclusively to these novels, out of which emerged the “symbolic novel”. Because of its content this type of novel is linked to the sociocultural milieu, but this reality is expressed through a story which has a dual level of meaning (a superficial and a deeper one). This type of novel mainly uses collective characters. Txomin Peillen, M. Zarate and A. Lertxundi mostly developed this genre.

Short story-writing was also consolidated during this period. It found its place in the field of Basque literature. The following authors and their stories illustrate the fact that it had found its place as a genre:

  • L. Haranburu Altuna and his weird, amazing and frequently moving: Zera... (1975) and Desgizona (1977).
  • M. Zarate and his pedagogical, symbolic allegories: Ipuin antzeko alegi mingotsak (1975).
  • A. Lertxundi’s modern stories: Hunik arrats artean (1970) and Aise eman zenidan eskua (1980).
  • X. Kintana and his cosmopolitan and on occasions mysterious stories: Behin batean (1972), Nazioarteko ipuinak (1982).


The number of poetry publications and variety of themes grew during this period. Importance was attached to the message and we can detect a number of poetry trends by taking a look at social-existential themes:

  • 1- The trend of a sophisticated, rich language supplied with a deep, substantial content. As themes it takes dynamic events surrounding people and bitter human existence. B. Gandiaga and X. Lete are examples of this trend.
  • 2- Poetry with subtler, freer language. X. Azurmendi, J. Zulaika and M. Arregi are examples of this trend. Plans for a general socio-cultural revolution in the Basque Country failed to materialise and resignation spread in certain sectors of society. The clear, uncomplicated ordinary poetry of J. Zulaika and M. Arregi reflected that. A poetry trend that adopted the theme of the basic nature of the person, everyday aspects and close realities emerged.

In this respect a number of poets were in the process of taking another new step and their work has to be mentioned during this period. They were:

  • M. Azurmendi’s Euskal Hilobia (Euskal Elerti 69).
  • I. Sarasola’s Poemagintza (1969). Poetry with a musical basis and touches of the modern poet.
  • A. Urretabizkaia brings to us delicate poetry woven with ordinary feelings experienced close to home: San Pedro bezperaren ondokoak (Euskal Literatura 72) and Maitasunaren magalean (1982).

Nevertheless, the creations of this period went further than the aforementioned trends: the symbolic-lyrical current of the one-time old model was renewed with an existential content and dramatic human problems. M. Iturbe’s works Bizitzako urratsetan (1973) and Asekaitz (1974) are evidence of this.

  • 3.- Poetry written for the senses. Poetry for sight, in addition words, images, different typefaces, photocompositions, special ways of positioning poems adopted this trend. With the senses: touching, seeing, hearing, etc. the reader is offered an opportunity to enjoy poetry. The poet aims to get closer to the reader. The most specific example of poetry written for the senses was that of J. A. Artze aka “Hartzabal”.

Two poets have to be mentioned here in connection with this direction; they sum up what had taken place over the previous thirty years: L. M. Mujika and J. M. Lekuona.

Drama and Essay-writing:

In drama production during this period a new generation emerged. There was more variety in the themes and more modern techniques emerged. Nevertheless, this genre did not become established. The writers that stood out at this time were I. Begiristain, D. Landart and L. Haraburu Altuna.

This period saw the publishing of many books relating to the essay genre but which did not have a literary language and aims. These works were aimed at speeding up and consolidating ideological, cultural and scientific instruction. The following works, among others, belong to this group: Begiramen’s Sei idazle plazara (1974), E. Osa’s Pedagogia eta gizartea and X. Mendiguren’s Europako ezker berria (1972).

The biographies which abounded in the 1990s also had precedents. A. Zelaieta completed G. Aresti’s biography. In this period Basque literature embarked on the road to modernity. The influence of the trends for renewal was felt in narrative writing and poetry between 1957 and 1975.

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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