MUJIKA IRAOLA, Inazio

(San Sebastián, 1963)

"I was born in Donostia in 1963, four days before somebody shot President Kennedy. So it wasn't me. I completed my Teacher's Certificate and got my degree in Basque philology. For the most part, I have written short stories. Some have appeared in my books; others have not. My first collection came out in 1987: Azukrea belazeetan (Sugar on the Prairie). This strange title is a metaphor for snow, and snow itself is a metaphor for my first homeland: childhood. My story Linkon (1991), published as part of a series for children, didn't appear in this collection though now I think perhaps it belongs there. I am so fond of legends that those that exist seem too few and I made up new ones for my book Hautsaren kronika, published in 1994. War has always seemed to me to be the perfect theater for examining the light and darkness of human character. Any war will do, but since it was most familiar to me, I began to write fiction about the Spanish Civil War and the period of the German occupation of France. My first offering was the story that appears here, Itoak ur azalera bezala (1992), which I had intended to be the seed of a larger collection. The same was true of my short book Matriuska (1995), which is comprised of only three stories. My last book to date is Gerezi denbora (Cherry Season, 1999); they say it's a novel, but I consider it a long story. I turned in the proofs of this book to the publisher one day, and that night my twins were born, a boy and a girl; a good harvest for the season so to speak. You will certainly understand why I haven't written more since then.

I work as an editor. In 1993, I founded the publishing house Alberdania with my friend Jorge Gimenez. I am also a scriptwriter, and I wrote the script for the cartoon film Karramarro Uhartea (2000, Goya prize winner) with Joxean Muñoz. I've done other things as well, but I won't mention everything here."

Mujika Iraola, I. "Biography", in Olaziregi, M. J. (comp.), An Antology of Basque Short Stories, Center for Basque Studies-University of Nevada, 2004.


© Mari Jose Olaziregi

© Translation: Cecilia Rossi




Inazio Mujika holds a degree in Basque Philology and has been an editor with Alberdania publishing house since its creation in 1993. The rural environment he knew during his childhood in the Urkizu neighbourhood in the town of Tolosa in Gipuzkoa constitutes the literary universe he has tried to reflect in his collection of short stories Azukrea belazeetan (Sugar on the Prairie) (Spanish: Azúcar en los prados, bilingual edition, Ed. Atenea, 2006. Trans. Jorge Giménez Bech). This is, undoubtedly, the most widely known and acclaimed book by Mujika. His bibliography also includes editions of classic Basque writers, such as Ez direlako aketsak by Juan Ignacio Iztueta and Arpoi baten eran (In the manner of a Harpoon) by Juan Bautista Agirre, and Mendekoste gereziak (The Whitsun Cherries) by Jean Etchepare. His career as a short story writer has been endorsed by prizes such as the Ignacio Aldecoa Prize in 1990 and the City of Irun Prize in 1992. He has also translated texts, among which can be found Salome by Oscar Wilde, La petite Marie by Sylvian Saulnier, and Soles by Javier Agirre Gandarias. Apart from the books already mentioned, he has also published: "Tu Quoque" (story, Arabako Foru Aldundia, 1991), the story "Itoak ur azalera bezala" (Kutxa, 1993. English translation by Kristin Addis: "Like the Waters Reselase Their Dead", in Olaziregi, M.J. (Ed.), An Anthology of Basque Short Stories, Center for Basque Studies-University of Nevada, Reno, 2004), Hautsaren kronika (The Story of Dust), collection of short stories, Alberdania, 1994), Matriuska (collection of short stories, Erein, 1995) and Gerezi denbora (Cherry Season, novel, Alberdania, 1999, translated into Spanish by Jorge Giménez Bech, Ed. Alberdania, 2006). The following books by Mujika Iraola are aimed at a young readership: Linkon (Erein, 1991), Urguleko arima herratua (The Wandering Soul from Urgull) (Donostiako Udala, 1997. Trans. El vigía de Urgull) written with J. Muñoz. The narrative Sagarrak Euzkadin. Manzanas en Euzkadi (Apples in Euzkadi) (Alberdania, 2007) set during World War II is his last publication to date.

The short story collection Azukrea belazeetan (1987) has a marked lyric tone. Close to magic realism and authors such as Juan Rulfo, the rich imagery and evocative power of Mujika's prose won readers and critics over. In fact, magic realism was widespread in Basque fiction during the 1980s, found in novels such as Babilonia (1989) by Joan Mari Irigoien, Two Brothers (1999) by Bernardo Atxaga, Hamaseigarrenean aidanez (It Happened at the Sixteenth Hour) (1983) by Anjel Lertxundi, and stories such as the award-winning "Haizeak iparlaino beltzak dakartzanean" (When the Wind Blows in Black Clouds) (1989) by Imanol Zurutuza. Obaba, Belandia or Mujika Iraola's Auzunea, are some of the imaginary settings authors made use of in order to create a fantasy that thrived on Basque oral traditions, and where the transgression of moral norms was paid for dearly by punishment or metamorphosis. And this is so since we are dealing with a fantasy that serves the purpose of giving voice to the Other, that is, those marginalised and silenced by society, as Rosemary Jackson has stated. The threatening presence of snow or of the cherry tree in bloom in the meadows in Azukrea belazeetan forebodes the terrible events that are looming. These stories are set in the first decades of the 20th century, but it could be said that the world depicted in this book is much older -it is a world that resorts to fantasy (to transformations, to metamorphoses), in order to explain the consequences that every sexual or moral transgression brings along. Hence the cruelty of the world recreated in Azukrea belazeetan, since those who generally suffer the punishment are the weakest, as is the case of the young Regina, who becomes pregnant as a result of an incestuous relationship with her father.

The recollection of the tragic events of World War II breaks into the memory of the protagonist of "Like the Waters Reselase Their Dead" (2004). As happens in Chekhov's stories, the reader gradually becomes aware of seemingly insignificant objects around which the plot revolves. It is precisely those elements that will prove most revealing at the end of the story.

Mujika Iraola's narrative career continued to draw on traditional stories and a borgesian erudition, as evidenced by his later books, such as Hautsaren kronika (The Story of Dust), where the ravings of historical memory serve to dig into a past more often than not revealed as highly disturbing. This book was awarded the Premio de la Crítica (the Spanish Critics' Prize); it includes fifteen stories retold in the voice of a retired journalist called Felix. The diversity of settings and characters offers a contrast to previous volumes. Thus, before our eyes pass Paris, Lisbon, Siles or the Basque country, and characters as diverse as Mata Hari, Orixe or Anne Marie Picaud. Worth highlighting is the fantastic register presiding over most of the stories included in this volume, and a literary style akin to that of some 19th century folktales.

As Iñaki Aldekoa says in Historia de la Literatura Vasca (Erein, 2004,220-221) the novel Gerezi denbora (1999) narrates "the expedition from Bilbao to San Sebastian carried out by a group of anarchists, led by a former seminarist and a camouflaged nationalist priest, with the purpose of liberating the archbishop of Valladolid, in the hands of other comrades of the CNT. ...The novel suggests a parallelism between both historical periods (that of the Paris Commune and of the Spanish Civil War); what followed this explosion of freedom and subversion nourished by dreams and utopias was brutal repression. This season of cherries was nothing but the prelude to the repression and massacre that would put an end to the anarchistis and freedom fighters from Paris and Republican Spain."





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© Photo: Zaldi Ero

© Sagarrak Euzkadin: Alberdania

© Azukrea belazeetan: Erein

© Hautsaren kronika: Alberdania