(It is essential to read both interviews to understand the anger in this entry)
Don’t miss the interview with Angel Lertxundi, which quite coincidentally was published in the same paper on the same day

This is what the Spanish author, born in San Sebastian, Fernando Aramburu, had to say after winning the 7th Annual Tusquets Prize for Novel Editors for his work “Años lentos (Slow Years)”:

“Los escritores de mi generación deben estar a la altura de los tiempos que les tocaron vivir. Los que no lo hicieron quizás fue por miedo o por el deseo, equivocado desde mi punto de vista, de pasar página. No hay que olvidar que ETA todavía existe”. Aramburu consideró que los autores no pueden ser superficiales. “No mirar para otro lado como hace un autor como Bernardo Atxaga, un hombre con poco coraje y con mucho miedo cuya última novela transcurre en el Congo y no en el País Vasco”, afirmó.
(“The authors of my generation must rise to the challenges of the times they have to live in.  Those who didn’t did so perhaps out of fear or out of the, mistaken from my point of view, desire to move on.  We cannot forget that the ETA still exists”  Aramburu considered that authors cannot be superficial.  “Don’t look the other way, as do authors like Bernardo Atxaga, a man with little courage and a great deal of fear, whose last novel takes place in the Congo and not in the Basque Country,” he stated.)

We imagine Mr. Aramburu is convinced he holds the Absolute Truth, the perfect measurements on what should or should not be written for an author to be considered superficial, like Atxaga, or deep, like himself.  It’s been a long time since we’ve last seen such a large number of biased and voluntarily manipulative and deceptive statements in just one text.  Similar analyses can be read on some Spanish Far-Right websites, maintained by those who, with enormous devotion, sing the Spanish Phalanx anthem that was set to music written by yet another Guipúzcoa-born Spaniard, Juan Tellería.

Mr. Aramburu has a serious problem, and that is that he’s confusing his childhood traumas with the social reality of the times, with the world surrounding him.  The story he uses to explain the “indoctrinating work of the manipulative Basque nationalist priests” seems more like something that would be stated by a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar rather than the thoughts of an intellectual.  He forgets that in the 1960s, Gipuzkoa, like the rest of the Basque Country, like the rest of the Kingdom of Spain, was being crushed under the weight of a cruel dictatorship that was obsessed with finishing off not only democratic movements in general, but also with Basque nationalism in particular, the “separatist Reds” of the nightmares of the dictator Franco and his friends.

Nevertheless, we must admit that we agree with Mr. Aramburu when he states:

La responsabilidad de la Iglesia es grande. Hay una tarea de esclarecimiento y de explicación por hacer. La Iglesia tiene una pregunta pendiente que aún no ha respondido, la de su implicación en la ideologización de unos jóvenes que acabarían empuñando las armas.
(The responsibility of the Church is huge.  There is a lot of clearing up and explaining left to do.  The Church has a pending issue that is has still not answered for: that of its implication in the indoctrination of some youths who would end up brandishing weapons.)

We are, because the Spanish Church has still not explained, nor asked for forgiveness, for its work is supporting the military uprising and Franco’s dictatorial regime.

Oh!  Sorry, he wasn’t referring to that.  After all, that part of the history of the Spanish Church only meant the support of illegal acts that caused millions of deaths and started a reign of terror that lasted 40 years.  That’s in no way comparable to the perverse, unacceptable, and horrible pro-democracy Basque nationalist rantings of a group of neighborhood priests.  Because those neighborhood priests did nothing more than maintain and defend the posture that was maintained and defended by a significant part of the Basque clergy  that, since the Spanish Civil War, had stayed on the people’s side and opposed the dictatorship.  They were so committed that, during the darkest years of the dictatorship, there were Basque priests who were jailed for their opposition to the Regime.  This Basque Church, watched and persecuted, defended the culture of our country and stayed at the forefront of the defense of the poor, the political rights of individuals and groups, and social rights.  This Basque Church played a huge role, via its missionaries in South America, in setting in motion the Theology of Liberation, defending the Church of Jesus of Nazareth.  That is the Church that so bothers and irritates Mr. Aramburu.

Because Mr. Aramburu forgets that those Separatists Red priests, and that Basque Church, were the true exception to the Church that strolled under a canopy with the dictator, that had blessed the guns used by the Fascist rebels, that justified, if not applauded, the indiscriminate murders of Republicans with the support and blessing of the Fascist authorities.  What those neighborhood priests were doing was facing up to the Monster as best they knew how, though we can understand how for a young man who has a deep love for a United Spain would find that pleasant.

Mr. Aramburu remembers how bad the Basque nationalists were.  Of course they were, they were opposed to the Spain: One, Great, and Free of Franco and his ideological allies.  Plus, he bitterly complains that the Basque speakers were privileged, in a society when speaking Basque was frowned on by the authorities, if not banned outright.  This all depends on the events he personally lived through, his childhood traumas, and not because he wasn’t allowed to learn how to play the guitar or the txistu.

Then we discover how complacent, or ignorant, the interviewer is when he asks:

-What were the ETA hitmen, as we call them here in Mexico, like?

When he calls them “hitmen” (someone who is told to kill and does so for money), he forgets that he’s referring to the ETA members of the ’60s and ’70s, the same time as Mr. Aramburu’s youth, when those young men were facing up to a dictatorship.  It’s true that for the author, that Basque nationalist anti-Fascist movement was not right.  But what is worrying is that in the interview, it’s not clear if he saw them as wrong because they were violent, nationalist, or just anti-Fascist.

But it’s true that Mr. Aramburu is able to overcome the interviewer’s lack of education when replying to the question.  He doesn’t answer “what they were like”, but rather “who they were” or “where they came from”.  He does so by dividing them into two archetypes, the Basques who came from nationalist families and who were convinced that the Basque People were victims (it’s true, Franco’s dictatorship did not create any victims), or were immigrants or the children of immigrants who were trying to integrate themselves via militancy.  This happened in Mexico, a country where Independence was led by the children and grandchildren of immigrants, and where Spanish Republican refugees had to flee to when Franco won the Spanish Civil War and now have grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.  Might it be that the children of those Spaniards have no right to participate in the social and political life of Mexico?  Perhaps for Mr. Aramburu, no, because, after all, they were nothing more than the children of immigrants.  We can’t imagine a more classist racist attitude than this.

Then he dares, yes dares, to miss the Donostia, sorry, the San Sebastián of the ’60s.  He clearly states:

Quienes vivíamos en San Sebastián teníamos la ventaja de que en media hora estábamos al otro lado de la frontera y podíamos comprar libros, prensa o música prohibida en España. Era una ciudad con orgullo cosmopolita que mantuvo el festival de cine, inauguró el de jazz… tenía el deseo de ocupar un lugar en el planeta. Luego esto se perdió, sobre todo en la década 1977-1987 y el nacionalismo tuvo una responsabilidad en esa pérdida.
(Those of us who lived in San Sebastian had the advantage of being able to travel half an hour and be on the other side of the border, where we could buy books, press, and music that was prohibited in Spain.  It was a city with cosmopolitan pride that maintained its film festival, started a jazz festival… It wanted to make a name for itself in the world.  Then this was lost, especially in the decade between 1977-1987, and nationalism was responsible for that loss.)

What shamelessness, what moral wretchedness.  That San Sebastian that received Franco, or rather the Fascist ruling class that dominated the city and welcomed him was, for Mr. Aramburu, truly cosmopolitan and open, not like those Nationalist rednecks who dared to win democratic elections and govern at the start of the modern parliamentary monarchy.  Mr. Aramburu doesn’t seem to mind that from 1977 to 1987, the world in general, and the Basque Country in particular, lived through one of the greatest crises the world has seen; he doesn’t seem to care that the democratic institutions had to remake a country that had been destroyed by the incompetence and inability of the Francoist governors.  For Mr. Aramburu, all of that is nothing but an excuse for the Nationalists to try to justify the evidence that contradicts his belief that the best thing for the Gipuzkoan capital was for it to be governed by the Fascists: “those really were the good old days”.

To continue clearly defining his ideological and moral principles, Mr. Aramburu then starts talking about Basque writers who write in Basque.  For him, the fact that there are readers in basque and therefore official support is necessary is pure fiction.  It’s clear, if one of those speakers of that primitive and imperfect Basque language actually wants to read something (as incredible as that might sound), they ought to read in Spanish or French, those being the two civilized languages that have a future.  Moreover, Basque writers are nothing more than literary hitmen (to use the term given by that very sharp interviewer).  After all, as he claims, the grants have a double danger: it lets you be a writer, but you know that if you stray from the path, you’ll lose out.  He doesn’t explain what path must be followed, or if it was laid out by the ETA, the violent ones, or nationalism in general.  But we get the impression that he believes this grant ought to be looked over by the Spanish Supreme Court.

And then he finally gets to that beauty of a comment on Bernardo Atxaga, whom he considers to have “little courage and a great deal of fear,” unable to write the TRUTH, due to what seem to be financial reasons and moral cowardice.  Yes, Mr. Aramburu does write the TRUTH, the one that is so well received in Madrid by the political and economic powers, that Truth that ensures good sales if accompanied by a good marketing campaign, and which promises prizes and invitations to conferences, that is truly a real Truth.  After all, how could it not be, if it gets such positive results?

Fernando Aramburu with his newly-won prize

Finally, he moves on to discussing politics (a touch of sarcasm; that’s all he talks about the whole interview) and to the end of the ETA, and the questions and concerns that causes.  Undoubtedly, the definitive cease fire on the part of the terrorist organization is one of the best headlines we Basques have seen in years, though it seems that Mr. Aramburu does not enjoy it, or have much confidence in it:

ETA es una organización creada para ejercer la violencia. Esa violencia perdura aunque no actúe. Ahora se nos pide que tengamos confianza en personas que han matado a 800 seres humanos, a lo cual me niego. ETA no se disuelve porque es su única carta para presionar por la liberación de los reclusos. Disolución a cambio de presos es la clave del final.
(The ETA is an organization created to cause violence.  That violence lingers even if not acted on.  Now we’re being asked to believe in people who have killed 800 human beings, and I refuse to.  The ETA is not breaking up because it is the only card they can play to pressure for the prisoners to be freed.  Dissolution in exchange for prisoners is the key to the end.)

Just over 30 years ago, many of us citizens (were forced to) believe in those members of the Francoist system who said Spain was going to turn into a democracy.  In exchange for abandoning their Fascist ideology, all they asked for was complete amnesty for all their crimes.  But of course, that wasn’t enough.  They also asked us to allow them to continue in their posts, as policemen, judges, lawyers, civil servants, etc.  All that is a trifle when compared to the unacceptable petition of the terrorist organization to ask for their prisoners to be freed.

Just 35 years ago, no de-Nazification process was necessary, despite the fact that all of them were members of the Fascist Regime and had been friends and collaborators of all the past and present Nazi movements around the world.  Now, without a doubt, the members of the Basque Left, at least the most radical ones, will have to learn to live under a democratic system, where it is not possible to force someone to accept your ideas.  But if those Spaniards who had defended and starred in Franco’s dictatorial regime were able to do that, why would this be harder?

Note

In 2001, Fernando Aramburu won the Basque Country Literary Prize in Spanish for his work “Los ojos vacíos (Empty Eyes)”, published, coincidentally, but the same publishing house that gave him that prize that year).  We’re not sure if at the time he was a superficial author, or, on the contrary, his receiving the prize that year was the exception that confirms the rule.

The jury’s justification for giving him that prize, worth three million pesetas at the time, about €18,000 ten years ago, was:

El jurado ha acordado conceder el Premio literario “Euskadi”, en su modalidad de literatura en castellano correspondiente al año 2001 al libro titulado LOS OJOS VACÍOS escrito por FERNANDO ARAMBURU y editado el año 2000 por TUSQUETS EDITORES por su calidad literaria y su conexión con la tradición de la novela picaresca contemporánea; por el uso de la ironía del autor en la construcción de los personajes y la creación de un escenario alegórico, casi mítico, con ecos de conflictos muy diversos de la primera mitad del siglo XX que, sin embargo, permiten lecturas muy actuales.
(The jury has agreed to give the 2001 “Euskadi” Literary Prize for Literature in the Spanish Language to the book titled LOS OJOS VACÍOS by FERNANDO ARAMBURU and published in 2000 by TUSQUETS EDITORES for its literary quality and its connection to the contemporary picaresque novel tradition; for the author’s use of irony in the creation of characters and the creation of an allegorical, almost mystical, setting, with echoes of the very diverse conflicts of the first half of the 20th century which nevertheless still allows for very current reading.)

El Informador – 4/12/2011 – Mexico

Los escritores vascos no son libres

El escritor Fernando Aramburu (San Sebastián, 1959) ganó el martes pasado la séptima edición del Premio Tusquets por su novela Años lentos, en la que, a través de las experiencias de un niño, recrea el nacimiento del grupo terrorista ETA. El fallo del premio, dotado con 20 mil euros (casi 400 mil pesos), se hizo público en la Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara. El jurado del premio, formado por Juan Marsé, Almudena Grandes, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Rafael Reig (ganador en 2010) y Beatriz de Moura, valoró “la narración dickensiana de una infancia en los años sesenta en el País Vasco” y el que Aramburu ofrezca una brillante reflexión en la que el recuerdo personal y la memoria colectiva se unen en un turbio trasfondo de complicidades con la violencia etarra.

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Rio Negro – 30/11/2011 – Argentina

Fernando Aramburu obtuvo el Premio Tusquets de Novela

El escritor vasco Fernando Aramburu se hizo acreedor al VII Premio Tusquets Editores de Novela con “Años lentos”, informaron ayer los jurados en el marco de la Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara. Los jueces, entre quienes estuvieron los escritores Juan Marsé, Juan Gabriel Vázquez, Almudena Grandes, Rafael Reig y la editora Beatriz de Moura, valoraron “la narración dickensiana de una infancia en los años 60 en el País Vasco”.

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