(Orio, 1948)

Š Mari Jose Olaziregi

Š Translation: Amaia Gabantxo

Published in Transcript, 2005.

Anjel Lertxundi studied Philosophy and Literature in San Sebastian, Rome and Valencia. He worked as a teacher and journalist for many years. He was director of the Basque Writers' Association in the years 1982-85. His literary achievements are many and varied: he has written more than 30 books for children and young people (e.g.: Tristeak kontsolatzeko makina [The Happiness Machine], 1981 and Lehorreko koadernoa [The Land Journal], 1998), volumes of essays (Gogoa zubi [Memory is the Bridge], 1999 and Mentura dugun artean [While we Stand a Chance], 2001), short-story collections (Hunik arrats artean [Wait Until Dusk], 1971; Aise eman zenidan eskua [You Gave Me Your Hand So Easily], 1980; Urtero da aurten [This Year Like Every Year], 1984 and Piztiaren izena [The Name of the Beast], 1995) and a number of novels.

Lertxundi's literary enterprise is defined by his ceaseless search for the poetic "I". His short story collection Hunik arrats artean [Wait Until Dusk – 1970], which for many defined a new era in Basque short story writing, was influenced by Latin-American magic realism and the theatre of the absurd. This collection was followed in 1971 by the allegorical novel Ajea du Urturik [Urturi is in Pain] and, in 1973, by the autobiographical novel Goiko kale [High Street].

His subsequent novel, Hamaseigarrenean, aidanez [On the 16th, They Say] was extremely well received and won the 1982 Jon Mirande Prize and The Critics' Prize, and was eventually made into a movie directed by Lertxundi himself. The novel deals with the consequences of a dangerous bet, and as Lertxundi said in an interview, one of his aims in Hamaseigarrenean, aidanez was to denounce all those who are accomplices to violence. The story takes place in the countryside, but the way events are portrayed makes the novel stand out, as the author uses modern modes of storytelling akin to Pavese's. After these novels, Lertxundi changed style: he decided to take his readers on an intertextual journey that visited many poetic traditions. One example is Otto Pette: hilean bizian bezala [Otto Pette: in Death and Life], his successful 1994 novel which was shortlisted for the Spanish Narrativa prize. This highly stylized novel opens with the sudden appearance of a mysterious man at the door of the baron Otto Pette. Although it cannot be said to be a historical novel, the descriptions of the people and events as well as the atmosphere place the novel firmly in the Middle Ages. Lertxundi researches his work intensely. Otto Pette contains references to the plague that hit Europe in the 14th century (taken from Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)) and to well-known literary themes such as the dance of death and Boccaccio's beloved, Fiammeta.

In 1995 Lertxundi started the series Infrentzuak [Reverses]. In it, he trod the paths of the purest Basque literary tradition and also of other more global traditions, bringing them together. The first volume in this series, Piztiaren izena [The Name of the Beast – 1995] is a collection of short stories that deals with the devil and the myth of Faust; the second, Azkenaz beste [Endings – 1996] is a fantastic novel; the third, Argizariaren egunak [Days of Wax – 1998, winner of the Euskadi Literature Prize] is a meta-novel; and the fourth volume, Letrak kalekantoitik [Letters from Street Corners – 1996] is a glossary of sayings, myths and folk songs.

Azkenaz beste is a gripping read. The protagonists of this novel undertake a fantastic journey that criss-crosses Europe and North-America and combines 300 years of legends, history and literature. Argizariaren egunak is a metafictional meditation on death, madness and writing.

In this journal, readers will find an extract from Lertxundi's novel Zorion Perfektua [Perfect Happiness – 2003]. This is a realist novel with lyrical overtones. It explores the effect witnessing a terrorist assassination has in a sixteen-year-old girl's life. The narrative moves from the moment the assassination takes place to fourteen years later in the girl's life, and the novel, which is both moral and confessional in tone, navigates those two planes effortlessly. The novel is moral, but not moralistic, because by confronting such horror the author has made a clear stand against the pursuit of happiness devoid of conscience.

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Š Photo: erabili.com