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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Pako Sudupe Elortza > Extracts

Essay (literary and non-literary)

1999 | Elkar


I invite you to take a journey, dear reader, along the paths that Andima Ibiņagabeitia opened up through writing. I have paused along the way to leave space for my observations and what occurred to me during the journey. Each one will have his or her own food and rucksack for the journey, and, it will be natural for us neither to perceive nor consider things in the same way. Moreover, it is better that it should be that way; that is the author's sole aim and he will be presenting to you samples from the fields cultivated by Andima, and commenting on them.

Before starting I shall refer to the forebears who encouraged Andima to embark on his life's work. Olabide and Orixe were the first to dream of following in the great Larramendi's footsteps, which Orixe's close friend Lizardi later fleshed out in poetry:

I want you, country language,
to serve for everything, too:
elevated by the wings of knowledge,
a new mind in an old body,
immortal marrow in an aging skin.

And Andima was one of those who tried to make that dream come true. An outstanding, diligent worker. Driven by a desire and feeling which burnt his entrails like the men in the Ancient Greek tragedy, he cultivated the wood full of brambles and undergrowth and worked like a Trojan.

He wanted to build a Basque Country of Basque speakers. Humble speakers or cultivated writers; in favour of a liberated Basque Country of manual or intellectual workers, in the way that corresponded to him in accordance with his character and education, in other words, through the work of culture. As I said, like the men in the Ancient Greek tragedies. This book (...) has harvested the aforementioned work.

He was generous towards all the people who were in favour of the freedom of the Basque Country, particularly towards those involved in Basque language and cultural activities. He used to accept all manner of heresies and heterodoxies and approved and loved the society made up of human beings comprising both good and bad elements. He tended to be tight-fisted and angry towards negligent Basque people who preferred to use Spanish and French.

Above all he wanted to identify Basque with knowledge and turn it into the language of the fatherland and culture. For this task he preferred to exploit the Basque pool; in particular, he wanted continue the path trod by Lizardi, Orixe, Labaien, Zaitegi, Olabide, Azkue, Salbatore Mitxelena, Manuel Lekuona, Nemesio Etxaniz and Jon Mirande. But when our own pool appeared insufficient, he approved of resorting to the Latin or Greek one, and not only approved of them but also actually resorted to them.

He took on the job of denouncing Franco's dictatorship and the rotten democratic states of the West that hampered this endeavour, and to the same extent he was the responsible keeper of the memory of the cruel and destructive attacks endured by the Basque Country. He spent his twenty long years in exile believing in the strength and consolidation of the Basque spirit and in the rupture he thought would take place after the death of the ringleader Franco. He was even prepared to lay down his life for his country. He was deeply affected by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and even by the 2nd World War. This is the reflection on the monument to commemorate Andima's death: Bere oldozmena: gudari ostea aurrean jartzen bazait bihotza ez zait kikilduko. (His thought: I will not lose courage, even if I come up against an army).

He devoted his life to working for a free Basque Country of Basque speakers by working to promote the Basque culture, working hard with the pen and the typewriter and using the money he had striven to put on one side.

1. Jesuit

The following notes are for the people who yearn for more details, before turning to his writings.

Andima was an expert in denouncing and pouring shame on those who put obstacles in the way of the aforementioned dream becoming true. However, the Jesuits were responsible for his deepest feelings, his most intense and most sensitive suffering, because of their conduct during and after the Spanish Civil War. He seemed to be scratching at the as yet unclosed wounds, as if he was afraid that a false scab or covering would form over them, while they still contained pus.

He knew all about the conduct of the Jesuits during the Spanish Civil War, a sign that he had monitored them very carefully. He wrote that they had been completely disorientated, because as soon as the Black Pope picked up the baton, his brother Jesuits everywhere blindly followed him. However, the most painful thing was to have stolen the very name of the Basque Country. They divided the Southern Basque Country (under Spanish jurisdiction) between Castella Orientalis and Castella Occidentalis. What an insult!

When Andima was 11 he went to the school the Jesuits ran and still run in Tudela (Navarre) to do his baccalaureate studies. He spent four years there and on his fifteenth birthday entered the Sanctuary of Loyola (Gipuzkoa), where he stayed from 1921 to 1926. He studied for another three years in Oņa in Burgos (1927-1929), before going to teach in Colombia (1929-1932) and finally going to Marneffe in Belgium (1932-1935). He left when he was about to be ordained, having spent a total of about eighteen years with them.

Aware of this, I felt it was necessary to conduct research into the time he spent as a Jesuit. Moreover, I discovered by chance that Iņaki Goenaga, who was a fellow student and friend of his, was still hale and hearty. In his review of the works of Jokin Zaitegi, Andima refers to the best translations and translators of the pre-Spanish Civil War period and among them he includes the translation of Wilhelm Tell (done by my dear friend Iņaki Goenaga). So I visited the Sanctuary of Loyola some time ago in the company of Iņaki Goenaga himself.

First of all we went to the hospital wing to visit Joxe Goenaga, Iņaki's brother. The hospital wing is now made up of the bedrooms used by Andima, Iņaki, the latter's brother Joxe, Jokin Zaitegi, Lauaxeta, Palgida (Plazido) Mujika (who translated Svensson's Noni kaj Mani) Argarate, Sarobe and the Korta brothers Patxi and Peli, Sagastume, Lasa, Larraņaga and others when they were novices or junior Jesuits. There is now a chapel on the spot where Iņaki Goenaga used to sleep as a novice or junior Jesuit. The bedrooms themselves are plain, yet decent and comfortable. From the bedroom windows can be seen fields, with the grass cut, but no fruit trees, crops or vegetable gardens apart from the garden for the dead.

From a distance the white tombs are in stark contrast with the green of the fields and surrounding hills. The Jesuits being cared for there visit the cemetery every day, helped by all kinds of walking sticks, to pray for the old friends laid to rest there and to see the final resting places for their own mortal remains.

Iņaki Goenaga, who is accompanying me, does not appear to have lost his natural vitality, despite his age. He has no difficulty speaking and even though he needs a walking stick, his vitality comes through the way he speaks as well as through his gestures and body language. He tells me that when he was young, these big fields which are now grass were different: "Bunches of large grapes used to hang here, and on Sundays and other holidays when we used to stroll in the vegetable garden, we were allowed to enjoy looking at them, but not to eat them." In the courtyards inside the Basilica, however, there used to be carefully tended gardens where today there is nothing but cut grass. They removed all the gardens and everything for the Pope's visit in 1981 and since then there has been nothing but grass.

Close to the Jesuits' residence is Ormaetxe house, the birthplace of Iņaki and Joxe Goenaga, and there an autumnal breeze accompanied us as we sat down under some trees.
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