CILLERO, Javi

(Bilbao, 1961)

"My name is Javi Cillero. That will not tell you much, so I'd better add some detail. I studied journalism and translation at university in the Basque Country, and have a Ph.D. in Basque Literature from the University of Nevada, Reno. Detective fiction is my speciality, or perhaps I should say my guilty pleasure.

I have translated works by Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, Robert Bloch, Ross McDonald, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald into Basque. I have also written a couple of books for children: Eddy Merckxen gurpila (Following Eddy Merckx, 1994) and Thailandiako noodle izugarriak (The Incredible Swarming Noodles, 2001). And I managed to publish a collection of short stories (Hollywood eta biok, Hollywood and I, 1999) before the end of the millennium. Just in case.

In my writing I like playing with parallel action, flashbacks and different points of view. In case you hadn't noticed, I really love cinema, it's just that literature is cheaper to produce. I believe in the therapeutic power of storytelling, and that we all have a story to tell. I go about my writing like a Zen painter: for years I hold my brush in front of a white canvas, until one day the long-awaited story announces itself and I try to capture it in a few rapid strokes.

O.K. I'm not there yet, but in the course of my journey I have collected a number of stories. Let's put it this way: life is disguised in literature, yet literature reveals life under its own disguise. Now it is time to read on".

Cillero, Javi. "Biografia," in Olaziregi, M.J. (comp.) An Anthology of Basque Short Stories, Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno, 2004.


© Estibalitz Ezkerra

© Translation: Kristin Addis




Javi Cillero holds a degree in Media Studies from the University of the Basque Country (1984), as well as a Master's Degree in Translation from the University of Deusto. In the year 2000, he completed and defended his doctoral dissertation, which was on crime fiction in Basque literature, at the University of Nevada, Reno. His article, "Contemporary Basque Fiction Revisited," which appeared in the book Basque Cultural Studies (Reno: Basque Studies Program, 2000), edited by William A. Douglass, Carmelo Urza, Linda White and Joseba Zulaika, summarizes the main points of his dissertation.

The author currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland, and works for an international company involved in translation.

In 1994, Cillero published a work for young people, Eddy Merckxen gurpila (Following Eddy Merckx, Erein), for which he won the Xabier Lizardi Prize awarded by the City Council of Zarautz. Since then, he has continued writing for children and young people: Norena da Virginia City? (Who Does Virginia City Belong To?, Desclee de Brouwer, 1995), Thailandiako noodle izugarriak (The Incredible Swarming Noodles, Alberdania, 2001), and Kofi itsasora bidean (Kofi on the Way to the Ocean, Aizkorri, 2001).

Cillero has also written a play, Uztailaren laua, Renon (The Fourth of July in Reno, Kutxa, 1999), which won the City of San Sebastian Prize in the category of best theatrical work in Basque. The work is set in Reno, Nevada, and is the story of an old man who loves to bet on horses and the young man who is his son, though the old man doesn't know it.

In 1999, Cillero published his first collection of stories: Hollywood eta biok (Hollywood and I, Alberdania). The twenty-nine stories in the book follow no linear structure and are rife with references to American literature and cinema. "As the title suggests, the book is laced with echoes of American cinema: highway motels, big-city Chinatowns, farmhouses shaken by desert winds, San Francisco and Las Vegas, Reno and Los Angeles. In other stories, however, he proves by bringing the narrative thread to Bilbao, Bayonne or Atharratz that this infinite America lives inside us also. And finally, there is a third group of stories that can be read as a sort of literary homage, or ironic wandering remake of works by the masters.

"Sometimes long, more often short, a few times extremely short-perhaps the best in the book-the twenty-nine stories of Hollywood eta biok have different levels of intensity and skill, from stories suitable for anthologizing to more ordinary tales. Nevertheless, the reader will find wisdom and mastery in all of them; in all of them something to touch the heart or elicit a wicked smile" (in Epaltza, Aingeru. "America gurean," "America Among Us," Nabarra, August, 2001).

Hollywood eta biok was published in Spanish translation in 2004 by the Madrid publishing house Centro de Lingüística Aplicada Atenea under the title Hollywood me mata.

Ero hiria (City of Madmen, Alberdania, 2005) is Cillero's second collection of stories. Set in the city of Reno, Reno itself is the protagonist of the stories in this book. «"John Huston's film The Misfits is mentioned time and again in this book, which is a showcase of the maladjusted, the displaced, those who never fit in; it is a catalogue of people who can't place themselves on a map, perhaps because they don't want to make the effort, certainly because they know that, if locating themselves precisely on a map didn't give them vertigo, it would throw them into a depression at the very least.

"It increases the alienation of the characters to have all of the stories set in Reno ("the border of the United States isn't the Pacific Ocean, but the casinos of Nevada," says one character), to set all of the stories within such clearly delineated coordinates, and the reader quickly adopts the conscience of these confused and lost people. These are not necessarily marginalized characters or people without means-many are university professors who fly from conference to conference-but this does nothing to hide their weak character, not by a long shot: the "intellectual cover" rather than lightening their load, sometimes only increases their desperation. In Reno, as we know, there is quite a large Basque community, and there is no lack of ironic references to this fact, nor of "intellectual" pseudo-European dialogues of the kind of which Woody Allen is so fond" (from a text read by Harkaitz Cano in San Sebastian on April 5, 2006; to read it in its entirety, please see the Alberdania's webpage).

Cillero has also done considerable work in translation, bringing to Basque the works of Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Ross MacDonald, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Bloch, Raymond Chandler, Roald Dahl, and Charles Dickens, among others.



Further information about the author:

© Photo: Susa (Literaturaren Zubitegia)

© Thailandiako noodle izugarriak: Alberdania

© Hollywood eta biok: Alberdania

© Ero hiria: Alberdania