"Before I knew what I wanted to be in life, I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to write. And with that aim in mind I did Media Studies at university, believing that that path would help me realise my dream of earning a living from writing. But on the way, I was seduced by radio. I wanted to tell stories rather than write them, and that's what I have been doing for years: telling stories into a microphone on a radio programme.
Out of the blue, one day at the radio station a friend tempted me: "So, how about writing something?" I wrote every day, to tell stories, but not to leave the stories in written form. And from that day on I started writing, and I still write.
Mostly, I write short stories. Perhaps because in them, I can combine my job with my passion. Maybe because when I tell a story, I like it to be precise, quick, direct and short.
I have published a couple of short story collections (Ezer baino lehen, Before Anything Else, 1992 and Lehenago zen berandu, Earlier Was Already Late, 1995) and a bitter chronicle of motherhood (Ai, Ama!, Oh, Mother!, 1999) And I haven't lost my taste for telling stories to those who are too lazy to read. It's finding the time that's difficult. Coming across it.
I tell stories so that someone will listen to them, and write them so someone will read them. But even so, if I knew that no one listened to what I said or read what I wrote, that wouldn't make me alter my choice: I have hit the bull's eye with my job and my passion. My heart is satisfied. Not something that is easily done."
(Iturbe, A., "Biography," in Olaziregi, M.J. (comp.), An Anthology of Basque Short Stories, Center for Basque Studies-University of Nevada, Reno, 2004).
ŠTranslation: Kristin Addis
Arantxa Iturbe holds a degree in Media Studies and currently works as a journalist for Euskadi Irratia (Basque Radio). In the year 2000, she won the Rikardo Arregi Prize in Journalism for her work as announcer and director of the radio program, Goizean Behin (Once in the Morning). In the 1990s, she wrote editorials for the newspapers El Diario Vasco (The Basque Daily) and Gara (We Are).
In 1992, her radio station broadcast as a radio novel the theatrical work she had published with the Basque Government, Maite, maite, maitea (Love, Love, Love). The same year saw the publication of Iturbe's first collection of stories, Ezer baino lehen (Before Anything Else; Elkar), and two years later, she published her second: Lehenago zen berandu (Earlier Was Already Late; Elkar). Literary critic Mari Jose Olaziregi wrote the following about Iturbe's stories: "Relationships between couples form the core of the stories Arantxa Iturbe has published in her two collections. These stories are largely populated by female characters, women who live in big cities characterized by stress and an intense pace of daily life. Iturbe?s stories have a spontaneity and freshness that is evident not only in the way her characters speak, but also in the structure of her plots. Indeed, Iturbe's prose is free of needless adornment and artifice. With constant but fleeting strokes of the pen, she changes the rhythm of her stories. She portrays with irony the frustrations, solitude and misunderstandings of her urban characters, who are so lacking in love" (Olaziregi, M.J., "Prķlogo," "Prologue," in Pintxos. Nuevos cuentos vascos, Spanish edition of An Anthology of Basque Short Stories, Madrid, Lengua de Trapo, 2005). According to Iņaki Aldekoa, "Arantxa Iturbe is in her element in evincing the ambiguities, errors, and frequently childish behavior of her male characters in their relationships with women. Her stories never lack insight or ironic humor" (Aldekoa, I., Historia de la literatura vasca, A History of Basque Literature, Erein, San Sebastian, 2004, p. 225).
Iturbe's work, Ezer baino lehen, consists of seventeen stories, some of which were previously published in HABE magazine, and others of which have won various competitions: "Riiiing!" and "Maiteak denak" (All Well Loved), for example, won the Julene Azpeitia Prize (1989) and the City of San Sebastian Prize (1990), respectively. Her stories deal ironically with the issues faced by couples: love and the lack of it, misunderstandings, problems of communication. With respect to style, her stories are short, with a direct and lively use of language.
Although Lehenago zen berandu continues the same themes and style as Iturbe's previous work, its thirteen stories show greater suspense, as well as sarcasm rather than irony. According to Amaia Iturbide, "the language in these thirteen stories reflects the language as it is spoken, but that spoken on the city streets, not in the country. The language is nimble, funny, fresh and lively, as surprising as a knock on the door after a family fight, light, easy to read, curious and original stories that seem to be told straight to the ear without having to be read off the page. Rather wicked topics. A wasp's nest.
"These stories in the form of a collage of big-city events have the element of surprise of gossip magazines, the thrill of a summer romance, the impasse of a crime novel, the subtlety of the light on the night table, the sting of a photo-booth picture, the malice of a photo taken without permission and in a compromising situation. Some are funny sketches, others seem to be news from the paper or telephone conversations. Even though the topics are nothing special, this book with the mysterious title draws the reader in. It can be carried under the arm, read all at once or one chapter at a time, on the beach or on the bus, it can be devoured quickly, like a sandwich or hamburger. In a gulp, if you have the chance" (Iturbide, Amaia. "Atrebentziarik ez bada," "If It's Not Boldness." Euskaldunon Egunkaria, September 17, 1995).
In 1999, Iturbe published the short literary essay, Ai, ama! (Oh, Mother!; Alberdania), a departure from the usual topics concerning motherhood. She adapted the work for the theater in collaboration with Agurtzane Intxaurraga, and it was performed by the HIKA theater group in 2001. Two years later, Iturbe and Intxaurraga won the Max Prize for best theatrical work in Basque. In Ai ama!, as Felipe Juaristi says, "Based on her own experience as a mother, Arantxa Iturbe, instead of writing a sickly sweet apology for motherhood (as she could have, certainly, since there have been many mothers before her and not a few have chosen to do so), turns motherhood inside out and lays it open for examination, warts and all.
"It is certainly not a sweet book, nor sour either, but it is sweet-and-sour in some places at least; the author brings to light various topics concerning motherhood and even makes fun of them. With respect to the style and the writing, the book is lively, thanks to detailed and witty dialogue. At the same time, it maintains a certain distance, which casts an ironic eye on all the advantages and disadvantages of being a mother. Nevertheless, it won?t make you laugh. Not at all." (Juaristi, Felipe, "Topikoen aurka," "Against Topics." El Diario Vasco, December 11, 1999).
Kontu-jaten (Hanging on Every Word; Alberdania, 2006) is the latest work Iturbe has published to date. It is a collection of interviews of Basque women who speak about their youth and childhood. "The book is based on the life experiences (not forgetting that such experiences are also referred to as "life lessons") of women born in the early decades of the 20th century. Thus, it offers us the point of view of women from the generation of the [Spanish] Civil War, with all that implies. Sometimes the story gets bogged down in the little details of home life, as if it were a literary report on such customs; but these small events are big to the people telling about them, who define their lives through exactly such events. Furthermore, the author carefully maintains the fresh liveliness that emerges in the oral telling of these stories" (Rojo, Javier. "Escarmentua," "Life Lessons." El Correo, November, 2006).
Further information about the author:
- To see the author's translated works, go to the List of Translations from Basque of this website.
- The website of Euskal Idazleen Elkartea-EIE(Basque Writers' Association).
- Literaturaren zubitegia.
- Alberdania publishing house.
Š Photo: eitb.com
Š Ezer baino lehen: Elkar
Š Lehenago zen berandu: Alberdania
Š Ai ama!: Alberdania
Š Kontu jaten: Alberdania