OŅEDERRA, Lourdes

(San Sebastian, 1958)

"My first formal, special and purposeful relationship with literature came about before I'd finished my studies in Spanish philology, when I wrote what would become the epilogue to Ramon Saizarbitoria's Ehun Metro (A Hundred Meters). Around the same I time met Saizarbitoria himself: him and the people who were part of his literary circle, the writers of the magazine Oh! Euzkadi; and I am especially indebted to that time, that atmosphere, and to Ramon in particular for making me believe that I had to write. Also, before I completed my degree I started writing reviews for the magazine Ere, with Andu Lertxundi as my boss.

I don't know for sure when it happened, but I know that by the time I got my degree, in 1980, and went to the United States to do a masters in linguistics, it was entirely clear to me that I would not study any more literature; I had developed a terror of it by then. Studying literature, I felt, would extinguish whatever it was that since childhood had made me ceaselessly put things into words and words on paper. Since that time, I've dedicated my professional life to studying, researching and teaching phonology. In between, I've written for Egunkaria and Hika about contemporary issues such as our language and our political situation.

But through the cracks something else escapes, and when I sit down to work seriously with it, the stories come out. That is how, struggling over several long years, I wrote the novel ...Eta sugeak emakumeari esan zion (...And the Snake told the Woman; 1999). And since its success I've published the story "Anderson andrearen kutixia" (Mrs. Anderson's Longing, 2000), and have also been commissioned to write for several magazines.

Nowadays, my work in phonology is inescapably leading me to study the rhythms of the language, and that has had an intimate impact on the writing I was hoping to keep separate from my professional work."

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


ŠMari Jose Olaziregi

ŠTranslation: Cecilia Rossi




The sudden appearance of new women writers in the Basque publishing scene up to now led by men is, undoubtedly, one of the most important literary events of our most recent history. Joining the well-known names of Arantxa Urretabizkaia, Mariasun Landa, Itxaro Borda, Laura Mintegi, Aurelia Arkotxa and Arantxa Iturbe, are writers such as Lourdes Oņederra, Ana Urkiza and Ixiar Rozas. In this sense, it can be said that the publication in 1999 of the novel Eta emakumeari sugeak esan zion of the Donostia-born Lourdes Oņederra has constituted a most significant milestone (Spanish: Y la serpiente dijo a la mujer, translated by Inaki Inurrieta, Basssarai, 2000. English: And the Serpent Said to the Woman. Translated by Kristin Addis, Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno, 2004). And it can be regarded as a milestone since she was awarded the most important prizes in our literary scene: the Spanish Critics? Prize, the Euskadi Silver Prize and the Euskadi-2000 Prize. Indeed, it is a relevant record for the first novel of an author who has given, up to the moment, priority to her research and academic work at the University of the Basque Country, in spite of her widely known contributions in literary magazines and the Basque media.

As it is evident, the title of the novel is a reference to the most significant Western text, the Bible, thus shaping the novel's paratext. We know that the serpent tempted Eve and promised her that she would posses all wisdom if she ate the apple. The consequences of her act are known by everyone: guilt and punishment. And in the case of women, the sentence of a life subject to men. This intertextual reference places us before the thematic core of the novel since, And the Serpent Said to the Woman, speaks of the abyss between men and women, of the lack of communication and solitude we are condemned to, as well as the absurdity of the motives or stories with which we attempt to give sense to our lives.

The journey to Vienna made by Teresa, the thirty-five-year-old protagonist of the novel, serves as a narrative device to retell her inner journey. Thanks to the references mentioned from the start (to the painter Jaspers Johns, who in The four seasons (1986) painted the different ages of man; to A. Vivaldi or the song by F. De André), we know there is no other possible ending to Teresa's journey, with the exception of death. From the start it is clear how the journey in this novel structured around the cycle of the four seasons, will end: Teresa has been married for ten years ("too many years for her to be bored") and following this journey at first planned for her to rest, her life will take another course: "You come with your husband, but leave alone. You don't know but the bracket you?re now opening will not close by itself."

Condemned to take refuge in a language where words continually betray her (such as love, friendship, hope, faithfulness), Teresa has no other option but to keep on trying to retell her story. "To retell, to say, to speak" -these verbs remind us of the impossibility of carrying on retelling and of the need to do so. Just as the characters in S. Beckett, Teresa knows it is precisely language that continues to link her to life, and language, though extremely suspicious (cf. L'Čre du soupįon), is the only thing she has. Hence the precise style, reserved, durasian used by the author in this novel, far from all traits of baroque style, which tries to capture the most intense experiences in a restrained language.

Surely, as Teresa says, women believe men's love is flexible, and that, deep down, they are not loved. Hence the references to the films Belle de jour and Le dernier métro, as well as the constant mention to women's solitude and melancholy. At the end of the novel, Teresa plucks up her courage and tries to break from the past that imprisons her, she will try to start a new life, to take risks.

The stories by Lourdes Oņederra, such as "Anderson andrearen gutizia" (Mrs. Anderson's Longing) (cf. An Anthology of Basque Short Stories, Olaziregi, Mari Jose (Ed.), Center for Basque Studies-University of Nevada, Reno, 2004) play upon the glances and silences surrounding the characters. And those glances stand for desires in Oņederra's narratives. The quotation from Doris Lessing from her Love, again opens "Mrs. Anderson's Longing," the story of the suppressed desire of this elderly lady who does not hesitate to allow herself a little treat at the beginning of each spring. Oņederra's narrative universe plays upon glances, interruptions and repetitions that mark the narrative rhythm, descriptions rich in sensuality but above all, silences that look for the complicity of the reader.

Further information about the authoress:




Š And the Serpent Said to the Woman: CBS