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Obabakoak. Bernardo Atxaga, Author, Margaret Jull Costa, Translator Pantheon Books $22 (p) ISBN Obabakoak is a shimmering, mercurial novel about life in Obaba, a remote, exotic Basque village. A schoolboy’s mining engineer father tricks him into growing. The British press in particular praised Atxaga, writing that Obabakoak was “an exciting intellectual event” (cf. Pavey) and a “brilliant novel, full of life” (cf.

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As the Czech structuralist Jan Mukarovsky wrote, we can deduce established aesthetic norms from the critical reception of an oeuvre. For this reason, different critical methodologies such as the aesthetics of reception, or systemic theories have coincided in stressing the relevance of analyzing the reception of literary works among reading communities. This repertoire of aesthetic norms defined by the literary institutions of each literary system brings to mind another important aspect of literary analysis, namely that the nature of any text is primarily pragmatic: An analysis of the reception of Atxaga’s works will serve to prove this author’s high status among different types of readers.

Although Atxaga has been writing professionally for many years, even today many readers are surprised to learn of the effects his writing has had outside the Basque frontiers – in places as remote as Japan or Venezuela, for example, where a book entitled La sonrisa de Bernardo Atxaga i was published.

In the realm of Obaba. The reception of Obabakoak and Two Brothers in newspapers and literary journals. Obabakoak received very positive reviews abroad. Only a Dutch critic stated that the group of short stories making up the text lacked narrative intensity – the remaining reviews I analyzed highlighted the quality of the work.

The British press in particular praised Atxaga, writing that Obabakoak was “an exciting intellectual event” cf. Pavey and a “brilliant novel, full of life” cf.

Obabakoak – Wikipedia

In Germany, critics described the novel as “a jewel” cf. Langand in Portugal, the critic Guradado Moreira said it was “unmissable” and “essential”. Further, he wrote that in Obabakoak readers encountered a dexterous narrator who made them think about the world and their lives. The exuberance of styles and languages drove this critic to describe the book as a “delicious paella, Baroque and Spanish”, and to highlight the seamlessness of its sumptuous style. Apart from the general praise mentioned above, the other aspect that the critics remarked upon was the book’s originality.

In the Salon du Livre ofthe French critics Vitoux and Caccia expressed their surprise at Atxaga’s style, and stressed the exoticism of the book. British critics also echoed the praise for originality, but they argued that Atxaga’s writing followed the current literary tendencies in European writing cf. Byatt, president of the jury for the European Literary Prize insaid that Obabakoakin line with contemporary European tendencies, cleverly combined primal stories and motivations with modern meta-narrative techniques.

The international reception of Bernardo Atxaga’s works

Other critics, such as the Italian Bernrdo cf. From these critics’ point of view Obabakoak proposed a literary journey from the particular – the Basque Country – to the universal. But the fact that the book was originally written in Basque especially aroused the critics’ interest – it was perceived as a novelty, as something exotic.

In almost every European state critics and academics DaguerreGabastouManeraDegryseSteenmaijerElzenet al. Eventually the “unpronounceable” cf. The surprise caused by the fact that the book was written in a language of pre-indo-European origin that was spoken by such a small number of people was reflected in many of the titles heading the beranrdo There were also some surprising commentaries, like that of the critic Maliciawho wrote onabakoak Atxaga was an “Iberian Walt Disney”, or Steinick, a Swedish critic, who wrote obsessively about the lexical and symbolic similarities between the name Camilo Lizardi and the word “lizard”.

The international reception of Bernardo Atxaga’s works. Bernardo Atxaga

But it was the incidence of intertextual references that provoked most comments from the critics. Classical texts such as A Thousand and One Nights or the Decameron were unanimously hailed as influences; but critics also discovered references to 19th-century authors such as Balzac, Chekhov, Maupassant cf.

Cameron, Manera, Steenmeijeror Dickens and Tolstoy cf. Maneraand postmodern authors, such as Perec, Queneau, or Calvino cf. To this select group of influential authors, obqbakoak critics added Borges cf.


Other noteworthy aspects that international critics remarked upon were the book’s stylistic and structural peculiarities, the influence of oral tradition cf. Lee Six, Traugott, Nisulathe use of fairytale-like narrative techniques cf.

Lee Pbabakoak, Nisula, Grezia, Conradoand the presence of meta-narrative texts. As far as the reception in Spain is concerned, the fact that Obabakoak was awarded the Spanish Narrative Prize in meant that reviews, articles and interviews were published in newspapers, magazines and journals throughout the country in an attempt to bernagdo the curiosity provoked by the awarding of the prize.

Some of the articles’ titles made reference to the book’s exoticism: Other titles were very clear in their praise: However, it must also be said that the Obabakak critics were surprised that the book was originally written in Basque, and their surprise showed their ignorance of Basque literature.

Some Basque writers, such as Iturralde or Juaristipublished articles in which they attempted obaabakoak fill that knowledge void. Equally noteworthy were the Spanish critics’ comments linking Obabakoak to the 19th-century short story tradition and to the postmodern aesthetics of the 20th century cf. Some stand out among these: I would like to finish this survey by noting that Basque critics also echoed the international opinion and praised the exceptional feat the book had accomplished in winning the Spanish Narrative Prize.

Basque critics such as Lasagabaster, Aldekoa, Kortazar, Gabilondo and Azkorbebeitia underlined the book’s literary value and its significance in the context of the recent history of our literature. It was obvious that Obabakoak had scaled a new peak in modern Basque literature and that things would never be the hernardo again.

Some critics analyzed Obabakoak ‘s peculiarities more in depth in academic books.

Some of these are: The success of Obabakoak is also corroborated by the many dissertations and Ph. Bi anai Two Brothersfrench edition, Deux freres. Behi euskadun baten memoriakgerman edition. Most of the international reviews that I analyzed started by listing Atxaga’s different works, then gave details of the plot of Behi euskaldun baten memoriak and finally praised the book’s originality. Aribil highlighted the book’s poetry and tenderness.

The two reviews published in the renowned Revue des livres pour les enfantspraised the book’s humor and originality above all things and said the book was a gift to all readers. Other reviews, such as the ones published in Inter Cdi or Mairie de Parismentioned the intertextual references to St. Augustine, and the narrative devices such as interior monologue. But “Memoirs of a Basque Cow” was best received in Germany.

A contributing factor to this was probably the careful translation that the historian Professor Ludger Mees, from the University of the Basque Country, did of the original Basque text, and the beautiful edition with which Albertliner Verlag launched the novel.

By the end ofthe two editions of 5, copies each were sold out. Both editions were obahakoak in newspapers as important as Die Zeit or Frankfurter Rundschauand in them, Ovabakoak novel was compared to Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World because of its philosophical background.

The renowned magazine Focus included “Memories of a Basque Cow” in its lists of the best seven books for November and December Focus has an advisory panel of 25 critics, and the magazine is highly regarded. The philosophical aspect of the novel made it stand out, obabkaoak this is probably the atxagz why these two critics said the novel was not obabakoam for young people, but that readers of all ages ought to read it.

Another German critic, Kaiserpointed out that the references atxagaa the Spanish Civil War might be lost on German readers. In his opinion, there were too many prejudices obxbakoak Basque readers and a book aimed at “young readers” was at a disadvantage with the traditional “books for grown-ups”. The book received many very good reviews, of which I would highlight the following: Cobo described it as a “literary jewel”, and praised the poetic wealth of the work, atxaha well betnardo the dexterity with which the narrator had dealt with the different registers of style.

With reference to this, he highlighted the text’s “Warholism” – in other words, the original combination of French and Basque Spanish in the translation in Sister Bernardette’s speech. The green, lush landscape described in the axtaga was another attractive aspect of the book in Cobo’s opinion.

In his article “The Social Function of Literature” ixthe writer oobabakoak editor Ballaz made use of the romantic poet Novalis’ statement that literature romanticizes reality, in other obabakok, that it interprets it.


In conclusion Ballaz praised the quality of “Memoirs of a Basque Cow” and Atxaga’s ambition as a writer. I should mention that there were also a few critics who doubted the literary quality of Behi euskaldun baten memoriak. In Ugarte’s opinion “Memoirs of a Basque Cow” did not contain the evocative power of parables.

He felt the only reason why he was writing the review was the author’s status and fame. For him, the book was only suitable for children, not of very high quality and lacked ambition. Ugarte concluded his review by criticizing what he saw as the excessively positive reception of Atxaga’s work abroad, which he put down to the fact that foreign critics were blinded by the exoticism of a work written in Basque.

Thus in his review Ugarte attempted to move beyond the limits of a simple commentary on a particular book and put forward several extra-literary reasons which, in his view, explained Atxaga’s success. Not many reviews appeared in the Basque press and journals, and the few that appeared did not praise the novel very highly.

Of the four reviews I obaabakoak for the purpose atxga this study, most expressed surprise at the novel. The critic Markuleta wrote that he expected something else, and that he was disappointed by the book. He also pointed out that he had needed to read the text twice to realize the philosophical dimensions of the novel.

The writer and journalist Zabala said he did not consider “Memoirs of a Cow” to be Atxaga’s best work, but that the book deserved to be read. In xtxaga of the reviews published in Basque, after describing the plot, the critics listed the narrative strategies the narrator had made use of. Zelaieta pointed out the Basque intertextual levels of the novel, and Olano remarked on the irony of the title and the book’s engagement with the theme of marginality – made obvious by the fact that the main character was a cow.

It could be said that the lack of reviews and articles was later remedied, to an extent, by the many interviews of Atxaga that appeared in Basque newspapers and magazines cf. In them the author spoke about the novel’s realist aspects, its intertextual references and stated that his intention had been to write a book that, like Treasure Islandwould be admired by children and adults alike.

In Spain the reviews were equally positive. The critics mentioned the sparseness of the prose, the seductiveness of the language, the subtleness of feeling, Atxaga’s ability to evoke images and bermardo novel’s intense structure, like atxagx of a puzzle cf.

The Lone Woman is another example of a novel structured around a single character. The novel caused great controversy from the start, because its main character, Irene, beenardo an ETA prisoner who volunteers for the Obagakoak Rehabilitation Plan, leaving behind, in doing so, both the organization and jail. For this reason the novel was harshly criticized by the radical nationalist left wing. A first edition of 20, copies of the Spanish translation came out in and sold out very quickly.

The novel’s political background resulted in many, atsaga interviews with Atxaga. During these interviews Atxaga criticized the excessive political romanticism, which, in his opinion, was predominant in the attitudes of nationalist politicians in the Basque Country cf.

The objectivity expected from a third-person narrative is put into question by the closeness with which the reader is made to experience Irene’s feelings. The critics wrote that the novel was limited by its thematic development, and though its quality could not be doubted, it was generally agreed that it was a minor work in comparison with The Lone Man cf. Here Hopkin is referring to the effect of the sparseness of the prose, which invites the perception that what is being suggested, what is left “outside” the text, is more important than what is left in.

The reception bernarro Obabakoak and Two Brothers in newspapers and literary journals Obabakoak Obabakoakenglish edition.