EPALTZA, Aingeru

(Pamplona, 1960)




Š Mari Jose Olaziregi

Š Translation: Kristin Addis

Published in Transcript, 2005.




Aingeru Epaltza is one of the most interesting writers in today's literary panorama. He holds a degree in journalism, and although he has worked for various newspapers, he is currently a translator for the Government of the Province of Navarre. In his literary trajectory, his work in the field of narrative is distinguished, not only in adult literature but also in literature for children and young adults. Among his works for adults, the collection of stories Garretatik erauzitakoak (Saved from the Flames, Erein, 1989) stands out, as does the short novel for young adults, Lur zabaletan (Vast Lands, Pamiela, 1994). Furthermore, his three novels have all won literary prizes: Sasiak ere begiak baditik (Brambles Have Eyes Too, Elkar, 1985) was the winner of the competition for new writers held by the city of Pamplona, the novel Ur uherrak (Muddy Waters, Pamiela, 1993) won the Xalbador Prize in 1991, and Tigre ehizan (Hunting Tigers, Elkar, 1997), the Euskadi Prize in 1997. In addition to these awards, Epaltza won the Rikardo Arregi Prize in journalism in 1990.

The novel Sasiak ere begiak baditik, set at the time of the Carlist Wars of the XIX century, was the first step on Epaltza's luminous path. The adventure of Sasiak ere begiak baditik is a story full of lively action, suspense and deceit, which brings to mind the excellent narration of Pio Baroja, one of the most universally known Basques.

The author's next novel, Ur uherrak, is a work of even greater literary scope and purpose whose point of departure is the meeting of the two main characters: Billie, a black girl isolated because of her social situation and family, and Jazinto, an old bertsolari [Basque improvisational troubadour], rejected and sick with alcoholism. The two of them try to get by in the suffocating and unfriendly atmosphere of a small Navarrese town skillfully illustrated by Epaltza. The vigorous fight for power among the political leaders of the town, police repression, the manipulation of the press and violence against the weak intensify when a local politician is killed. The world reflected in the novel is dark and murky and the author, skillfully using the technique of counterpoint, tells the story with finesse. The structure of the novel reveals narrative strategies similar to those used in detective novels, bringing various North American writers to mind, R. Ellison and his The Invisible Man (1952) in particular, and especially J. Baldwin.

In the novel Tigre ehizan, the two protagonists, a father and son, by coincidence must each hunt a tiger on August 7, 1944. Martin, together with his coworkers from the El Llano gas company, leaves for the Amazonian Parigua jungle to hunt a tiger that has killed several people, while Martintxo, his son and a witness to the recent German occupation of Larresoro, together with his friends from the town, decides to "hunt" a German tank, that is, to "hunt" the tank he and his friends call the "tiger". Little by little, the fates of the father and son are bound together and the story takes on an almost metaphysical intensity, leaving a strong impression on the reader. It could be said that Tigre ehizan becomes a literary journey into the heart of darkness of each tormented protagonist.

The selection for this journal was chosen from the excellent novel Rock'n'Roll (2000). In it, the reader recognizes from the beginning the elements of the detective novel: murders and disappearing bodies, robbers, policemen and journalists, drunks, sects... and memorable passages sprinkled with black humor. Furthermore, some of the other basic elements specified in Raymond Chandler's well-known work The simple art of murder also appear, including intrigue, suspense that doesn't let up until the very end, violence, sex, alcohol... And we don't mention Chandler lightly; with all due respect to Chandler's famous set of rules, Epaltza has proved to be an excellent student of the master. In this novel, Epaltza casts an ironic, even grotesque gaze at the generation that discovered rock and roll. The mood of Lou Reed's song Rock'n'Roll is present not only in the title but also throughout the whole book: "Her life was saved by rock'n'roll / Despite all the amputation / You could dance to a rock'n'roll station" (from Rock'n'Roll Animal, 1974).




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Š Photo: Elkar