EU | ES | FR | EN
Facebook Twitter Vimeo Youtube
Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Lutxo Egia del Rio > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2002 Planes of paper | Susa

Bravo Spain. Come to Bilbao. Don't expect to find a single museum, here the newest is inside and outside. I The Tube got into Victoria station later than usual. Apparently there had been engineering works between Seven Sisters and Tottenham Hale. The voice over the loudspeaker did not attach any importance to them. It was due to engineering works. London is work.

Today is the first day of winter. Even though Galder got his first slap in the face from London some weeks ago, the city's hairstyles continued to fascinate him. What was more, he was totally convinced he would never be able to get away from them. The underground subways presented a delightful collection of mops of hair: hairstyles for going out to dinner hairstyles stuck to mobile phones hairstyles for deceiving hairstyles without any malice hairstyles for loving in a cornerÓ He found the afro women's hairstyles the most beautiful. They paid as much as the rest of the travellers, but there was a world of difference between them.

-Art inside and outside? The Guggenheim??? We Afro-English wear it on our heads day and night.

Art insideandart outside.II

It began to drizzle in Warren Street. All around the Tube station were black checked umbrellas red and green umbrellas and old umbrellas. It was impossible to see the ads on the buildings above, because they were being concealed by the umbrellas. Jose Urkidi, the old Basque soldier from Erandio [near Bilbao], used to fly off the handle whenever Galder told him that the weather in Bilbao was similar to that in London.

-The same applies to the English and banks. When the weather's fine they offer you an umbrella but when the weather's bad they snatch it away from you. They've got tricks and treachery in their blood.

A newsstand by the Tube station entrance announced the world's news in the same newspapers, just as if they were the same events. There was no mention of the wretched museum. Instead, the rain was attacking the prominent pages of Spanish newspapers in a corner. They, too, spoke of events, the same Spanish ones. As Galder was reading the headlines he sensed the presence of the eyes of a Pakistani newspaper seller behind him, like an axe. It wasn't difficult to notice the gunpowder inside the cannon balls.

-You Spanish and Italians are all the same.

It's true.

The Pakistani had difficulty trying to work out whether the onlooker was Spanish or Italian. In London everything is fine rain mist drizzle rain III. Galder did not know whether he was a Basque from Spain or Italy. The Basque press did not get that far and the Madrid press was expensive. "A dˇnde quiere llegar Pujol? No se puede imponer el aprendizaje de una lenguaIV.

In a pub he met the granddaughter of the most famous English journalist of the Spanish Civil War [1936-1939]. Emma. The pints of beer remained untouched. It was time for lunch, out of hours and disorder. The customers seemed happy. They did not exchange a single word with each other. They all bent their heads as they searched for a scrap of bacon, and the awkward steps of each one indicated their fatigue from being on the road. London's main coach station was on the opposite pavement. Most of the customers were travellers. Galder was a traveller, too. A silent or silenced traveller. Spanish or Italian.

The English girl was very elegantly dressed. She had come from her place of work. Her office was in Liverpool Street and there a line separates those who dress elegantly from those who wear threadbare trousers. The style of dress was aimed at giving the encounter credibility. Credibility was needed. Emma was Benedict Capon's granddaughter. The granddaughter of the most important chronicler of the Spanish Civil War. You see the Spanish Civil War was one of the cruellest in the 20th century.

She's a beautiful woman, a neska beautifulV.

It seemed to Galder that she was doing him a tremendous favour. He was very familiar with that false English smile. He had seen it at job centres for temps in London. As soon as a foreigner comes in through the door, they, the new greedy ones avaricious ones covetous ones, put on that kind of smile. It is work. London is work.

A buxom Margaret Astor concealed her wish to leave the pub. Galder also shared her wish to get out of there. After having a disgusting Capuccino each, he put down on the table the newspaper he had been reading before the girl's arrival. He found the incomprehensible English words heavy-going.

- I want to go and visit a friend -Emma told him-. His name's Fernando.

Other intentions occurred to Galder. He thought about it. Ben Capon and the Spanish Civil War had brought him to London. His granddaughter, Emma, took him to that pub. Girl ala womanVI. He was deeply grateful that she spoke Spanish well.

The Republican officer was really grateful that Capon spoke Spanish well. His face was pale. A dark scar stretched from one side of his forehead to the other. The warmth he wanted to show surfaced only with difficulty. Incomprehensible English words were too complicated.

They walked up from Tetuan de las Victorias. The officer admitted to Capon that the fascists, the monks, the rich, the people under suspicion, knew that if they met the CNTVII militia, there was little chance they would survive the walk. Right there in Tetuan they shot them in the back of the neck at the entrances to the slaughterhouses in Legazpi, in the Casa del Campo by the road to Maudes in Chamartin in Fuencarral and in Villaverde. In Pozo del Tio Raimundo they machine-gunned dozens of prisoners on board the death train arriving from the Cordoba front. The gravedigger of Vallecas counted 189 bodies. He did not agree with those killings. Given the choice he preferred the "Checas"VIII, but, to be honest, the mock trials that took place there were not to be trusted, either. It may have seemed strange but prison was the safest place for the friends of rebels. Wishing to express doubt, Capon shook his head. The officer recalled the killings in the Modelo prison. The prisons prepared in Porlier and Ventas. The inmates in Ventas were apparently executed in Aravaca; the ABC newspaper reporter Ramiro de Maeztu reproached them for not knowing why they had been killed. The officer reluctantly accepted that, but was told to be careful with the information. It had to be made clear that the Fascists always behaved more cruelly.

-You can't eat anywhere better than in London -Emma ventured to say.

Galder somehow managed to suppress his desire to laugh. He wanted to appear polite. He did not know whether he had achieved his aim. Emma appeared to notice that he regarded what she had said as nonsense. Everywhere outside there were umbrellas coats gloves umbrellasIX hurry. From the pub the hurry seemed senseless. It was no use trying to escape the rain. It was no use trying to suppress one's laughter.

-They serve good food at the Meson Bilbao in London, that's different.

Emma stuck to her guns. All wars have their stubbornness. Just as all wars have their starving people, their Urkidis their soldiers their foreign reporters. Jose Urkidi, the Basque soldier from Erandio had not heard of Capon. The reporter lived at the Hotel Torrontegi in the Arenal [area of Bilbao]. He had been told the Hotel Carlton was better, but that unfortunately, it had been taken over as the headquarters for Agirre's governmentX after a bomb had fallen on the Sociedad Bilbaina building. The English reporters, however, knew that there were very few places where one could eat better than at the Torrontegi. Bilbao was hungry and the best solution for that was the hotel, where the money of rightwing refugees from Asturias and Santander and the reporters produced miracles. Capon suspected that one would be able to eat just as well at that hotel after the fall of Bilbao [to Franco's troops].

Galder remembered Jose. In his opinion the bugs in the Santo˝a cells had a better diet that the men of the Basque Army.

-Once we had cod to eat. The war had only just ended. And ends produce winners as well as losers. On that day we all ate the same thing. Anyhow, some of us refused to eat the food of the victors. But it was no use. The victors and the vanquished cannot escape from one another in graveyards and prisons.


It was clear that Emma had not heard of the village in Cantabria. Prisons start to fill up as wars draw to a close. Five thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine plus Jose, said Galder. That did not mean that her grandfather had not known the place. He was familiar with it but only slightly. Capon was with AjuriagerraXI when the S.S. Seven Seas came to pick up the soldiers who had surrendered. In Jose's view, the fact that Ajuriagerra had returned from Biarritz was proof that they, the Basque nationalists, had not betrayed them in any way. All he had to do was ask Emma about the events prior to the fall of Bilbao. And Galder had many details he wanted to ask her about.

-That's right, Santo˝a.

IIn English in the original.
IIIn English in the original.
IIIIn English in the original.
IVIn Spanish in the original. "How far does Pujol [the President of Catalonia at the time] intend to go? You can't force people to learn a language."
VIn English in the original. "Neska" is the Basque word for "girl". Adjectives follow nouns in Basque, so this is translated as "a beautiful girl".
VIIn English in the original. "Ala" means "or" in Basque. So, "girl or woman".
VIICNT- Anarchist trade union at the time of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
VIIIThe name given to the headquarters of the Republican political police around the time of the Spanish Civil War.
IXIn English in the original.
XThe Basque Government of 1936-1937 whose "Lehendakari" or President was Jose Antonio Agirre (1904-1960)
XIJuan Ajuriagerra (1903-1978), Basque nationalist leader who, behind Agirre's back, agreed to a surrender in Santo˝a to the Italians, which Franco did not respect.
2011 Euskal Idazleen Elkartea
Zemoria kalea 25 · 20013 Donostia (Gipuzkoa)
Tel.: 943 27 69 99 - Fax.: 943 27 72 88

iametza interaktiboak garatuta