18 July 2010

Obabakoak; Bernardo Atxaga

Obabakoak: A NovelObabakoak: A Novel by Bernardo Atxaga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This loosely-related collection of short stories is definitely worth reading. I must admit that there wasn't much in them that said "Basque literature" in such a way as to separate them from other short stories, and after a while I gave up looking.

Set in either Obaba (a village in the Basque region of Spain) or Hamburg, these stories are relatively quiet and, I thought, have some thread of dream/magical realism running through them. Often the characters are loners with somewhat rich interior lives (although those "riches" could also be taken to be simply "over-active"). There's also a tinge of tragedy in each, a little sad twist at the end.

The last half of the book is ostensibly a journey by a man and his friend to a weekend of storytelling in Obaba, hosted by his uncle. Interspersed with the tale of the journey are the stories each will tell and a few that they pick up along the way. One "story" I particularly liked was "How to Plagiarize" - the rules certainly make sense (and metafiction? brilliant!) and it should be required reading for any aspiring author; the follow-up, "The Crevasse" has me wracking my brain trying to place it.

As I said, there's nothing here that struck me as being particularly Basque about the stories, but perhaps that's not the point. Of course, I don't know a lot about Basque literature to start with so...

Copy provided by publisher.

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