This article was translated by John R. Bopp

In this entry, we’re reuniting two “old friends” of the blog: Amaia Gabantxo and The University of Nevada, Reno Center for Basque Studies.  They’ve come together on the English translation of two poetry collections by Gabriel Aresti, an exceptional Basque who makes up part of the select group of poets who opened Basque culture up to modernity.

Gabriel Aresti Segurola (Bilbao, Oct. 14, 1933—Bilbao, July 5, 1975)
Gabriel Aresti Segurola (Bilbao, Oct. 14, 1933—Bilbao, July 5, 1975)

The book, the English translation of Maldan behera (1959) and Harri eta herri (1964), has just been published, and has an introduction written by Basque literature professor Jon Kortazar (who also wrote the poet’s biography).  Amaia Gabantxo translated.

This author, flamenco singer, and translator, specialized in Basque literature, is doing great work taking the written elements of Basque culture into English, the lingua franca of the last and this centuries.  A great translation of Basque culture into other languages is what turns them into part of our universal cultural heritage.

This work will also, for example, allow readers to get to know, in its creative context, one of the cultural touchstones of several generations of Basques, “Nire aitaren etxea” (1964).

Cover of the book of two collections of Gabriel Aresti’s poetry, translated into English
Cover of the book of two collections of Gabriel Aresti’s poetry, translated into English

It’s hard to remember a text that better reflects the deep feeling that unites a Basque with his homestead, an element that ties him to his history and which, in good measure, serves to explain what that Basque person is; the importance is so great that the house’s name usually became the family’s surname, the genealogical line of Basque families.

For many Basques, this poem expands on that feeling of being joined to the “home”, that feeling of belonging, to that house, and to that country.  It’s a cry for the defense of the Basque nation, in times when a cruel dictatorship oppressed the Basque lands south of the Pyrenees.

As we said in a previous entry about the Red Bay whaling station, roof tiles were such an essential part of the home, were so symbolic of protection in the traditional Basque culture, and that meaning has reached us in our times.

We’ll leave you with the poem and the references to this book that has just been published.

 Nire aitaren etxea
My father’s house *
Nire aitaren etxea
defendituko dut.
Otsoen kontra,
sikatearen kontra,
lukurreriaren kontra,
justiziaren kontra,
eginen dut
nire aitaren etxea.
Galduko ditut
galduko ditut
baina nire aitaren etxea defendituko dut.
Harmak kenduko dizkidate,
eta eskuarekin defendituko dut
nire aitaren etxea;
eskuak ebakiko dizkidate,
eta besoarekin defendituko dut
nire aitaren etxea;
besorik gabe,
sorbaldik gabe,
bularrik gabe
utziko naute,
eta arimarekin defendituko dut
nire aitaren etxea.
Ni hilen naiz,
nire arima galduko da,
nire askazia galduko da,
baina nire aitaren etxeak
iraunen du
I’ll defend
the family home;
from wolves,
from drought
from scammers
from justice
I’ll defend
the family home.
I shall lose
the cows and sheep,
the gardens,
the pine forest;
I’ll lose
the rent,
the interest,
the payouts,
but I’ll defend the family home.
They’ll take away my guns
and with my bare hands
I’ll defend
the family home;
they’ll cut my hands off
and I’ll defend
the family home
with my arms;
they’ll leave me
without arms,
without shoulders,
without my chest,
and with my soul I’ll defend
the family home.
I’ll die,
I’ll lose my soul,
my kin will stray,
but my father’s house
will stand.

* Amaia Gabantxo

Center for Basque Studies – 4/2017 – USA

Downhill and Rock & Core

These 2 books, collected into one volume here, Downhill (1959, Maldan behera in Basque) and Rock & Core (1964, Harri eta herri in Basque) were foundations of modern Basque literature and influenced pride in Basque language, culture, and expression for generations of Basques! We are so delighted to bring them to you in English for the first time!

(Sigue) (Traducción automática)


Downhill and Rock & Core

Gabriel Aresti (1933–1975) was the poetic voice of both resistance and renewal for a generation and beyond of Basques in the 1960s and until his untimely death at the age of forty-one. The collections published here for the first time, Downhill (Maldan behera, 1960) and Rock & Core (Harri eta herri, 1964), represent two distinct periods in his poetry: the first an epic, dreamlike, and visionary tale of descent and ascent, death and rebirth, a symbolist treatise on resurrection told through the voice of a superman, an Ego. In a complete stylistic about-turn, meanwhile, the second is a robust, gritty, and direct tract, socially conscious poetry written in a clear, comprehensible form that plays on the metaphor of stone and rock as resistance, endurance. Amaia Gabantxo’s stunning translation of these two seminal works from the original Basque—the first time they have been presented in English—brings the urgency and force of the originals to life and will take readers on an unforgettable journey deep into the rocky core of Basque culture. The way is long, and it is an evocative, honest, sometimes harrowing journey, but the result is a treasure that will live long in the memory.