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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

A brief history of Basque literature

Just like the times, the literary code of those voices broke away from the previous trend. The novel, Leturiaren egunkari ezkutua by Jose Luis Alvarez-Enparanza aka “Txillardegi” and the modernity it brought was far away in time. New models had to be sought and experimented with. In fact, when defining the 1970s we would have to use two words: the avant-garde and experimentalism. In poetry the starting point for the new trend was established by Atxaga’s Etiopia. And it is from there that the name Gabriel Aresti comes back to us. Among the works of Basque poetry, Etiopia and Aresti’s Harri eta herri are, in fact, the most widely read and the ones which have exerted the greatest influence on Basque poets. As Atxaga himself said, he is no more than Aresti’s natural successor. The thing is Aresti’s harria (stone) turned into harea (sand) in Etiopia.

A member of the Pott band rounded off the metaphor of what Etiopia signified: just as the students who took part in the May 1968 revolt wanted to find grass beneath the asphalt, that book of poems was an endeavour to find asphalt under the grass. To somehow take the Basque language out of its rural context and into the city. The Etiopia poems were urban ones, produced by a young poet who had a good grounding in Rimbaud’s teachings. And even though it aroused criticism at the beginning, it demonstrated that Basque could have possibilities outside the farming world. A similar point of view could be found in Koldo Izagirre’s Itsaso ahantzia (1976). The main themes of these poems were love, the sea and solitude, and the influence of the surrealist poet Eluard is noticeable. Later on Izagirre was to write Oinaze Zaharrera (1977), Balizko erroten erresuma (1989) and Non da Basques’ harbour? (1997).

Faced with the avant-garde model proposed by Atxaga and Izagirre, Bitoriano Gandiaga (Hiru gizon bakarka, 1974; Uda batez Madrilen, 1977; Denbora galdu alde, 1986) and Juan Mari Lekuona (Muga beroak, 1972; Ilargiaren eskolan, 1979; Minodramak eta ikonoak, 1990) adopted a different attitude. Although the admiration for the sculptor Jorge Oteiza and for Aresti of the 1960s was to serve as a bond between the poetry of the two authors, each one’s work was to maintain its own characteristics. In Gandiaga’s case, in contrast to his mythical, harmonious Elorri published in 1962 (in which the Basque Country was idealised by the peaceful atmosphere of Aranzazu), his next works portrayed a more pessimistic, conflictive point of view: no firm faith in nature, concern for the Basque Country and its language, the loneliness and anonymity of urban life. Lekuona used the term “social expressionism” when defining the style of the Mendata (Bizkaia)-born poet Gandiaga. In the meantime, Lekuona himself was to put human beings and the unity of basic matter in contact with each other in his works, while never failing to express a concern for society and a commitment to a new human race and to the world. His poetry could almost be said to have created a school, because Imanol Irigoien (Argiaren barne distantziak, 1989) and Amaia Iturbide (Gelak eta zelaiak, 1994), for example, followed in his footsteps. One can mention the works of the poets Joxe Austin Arrieta, Juan Ramon Madariaga, Juan Kruz Igerabide, Pello Zabaleta or Patziku Perurena; each one maintained his own characteristics, but did not stray very far from Lekuona’s path.

The 1970s' desire to experiment led to all kinds of attitudes: the existentialist attitude from Joseba Zulaika (Adanen poema amaigabea, 1975), M. Arregi (Hego haizearen konpasean, 1975) and Luis Mari Mujika (Hitzak ebakitzen, 1975; in the following books of poetry he was to revert to popular, measured poetry: Zortziko hautsiak, 1978; Herria eta bidea, 1978; Arnas gaiztoa. Erromantzeen airera, 1979; Aire neurtuak, 1984); inward looking poetry which can be seen in Arantxa Urretabizkaia’s long poem San Pedro bezperaren ondokoak and in Maitasunaren magalean (1982) by the same author; romantic nihilism as in the case of Amaia Lasa (Hitz nahastuak, 1977; Nere paradisuetan, 1979); Manu Ertzilla’s simple poetry with great feeling. In fact, everything was possible and in the same group one came across different sensibilities. An example of this is the poetry of Xabier Lete, Joxean Artze aka "Hartzabal" and Joxe Angel Irigarai around the cultural movement “Ez dok Amairu”. Next to Lete’s conflict-ridden, inward looking perspective (Bigarren poemategia, 1974) one finds Irigarai’s symbolic-mythical perspective (Kondairaren ihauterian, 1978). Between these two one has the totally experimental poetry of Hartzabal (Isturitzetik Tolosan barru, 1969; Laino guztien azpitik…, eta sasi guztien gainetik…, 1973; …bide bazterrean hi eta ni kantari…, 1979), the lyrical, visual experiment: verses that move from right to left, organised in a spiral, etc.

Idazleak Ikastetxeetan
Liburuak Gozagarri 2017
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Literatur Jarduerak
2011 Euskal Idazleen Elkartea
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