BUBER'S BASQUE PAGE
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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
January 20. The day that the entire populace of the city of Donostia-San Sebastian stop what they are doing and have a massive street party that lasts until dawn. Donostia, the most beautiful city that I’ve had the fortune and pleasure to visit. January 20, the day that the city of Donostia stops and celebrates my birthday.
Ok, maybe that’s not quite right. Oh, it is true that the city celebrates the entire night, with roving bands dressed as chefs and others drumming, wielding larger-than-life spoons and forks. It’s probably where I did my first gaupasa, though it’s hard to be sure — gaupasak are often a little fuzzy. But I do remember that the Parte Vieja was probably one of the most exciting places during one of the most exciting events I’ve ever been to.
But, it is a bit of an exaggeration to say that, every year on January 20, Donostia celebrates my birthday.
Rather, January 20 is the feast day of San Sebastian, the obvious patron saint of, er, San Sebastian. La Tamborrada (Danborrada in Euskara) has its origins in locals mocking foreign soldiers in the city, marching around the city banging on things like drums (according to the ever reliable Wikipedia).
Just in time for those of you longing to experience La Tamborrada from far away, or wanting to reminisce past gaupasak in the Parte Vieja, or just interested in the history of this glorious event, a book has just been released honoring and celebrating this fiesta. Tamborrada-Danborrada, by Mikel G. Gurpegui and Javier Mª Sada, delves into the history of La Tamborrada, including describing all of the companies that wander the streets throughout the night. For those of us who can’t actually join in the festivities, this is a suitable substitute.
Whatever excuse all of those people have for celebrating the entire night of January 20, I hope that a few of them raise a glass in honor of my birthday
Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
When we last saw Joanes and his crew, they had made their first successful whale hunt. Part 2 of Joanes or the Basque Whaler, Whale Island, picks up with the rewards of that hunt. And, along with the rewards, come the price of success as Joanes begins to overstep his abilities as he sees greater glory.
This is the second part of Guillermo Zubiaga’s epic about what he refers to as the Basque wild west, the adventures of the Basque whalers. The men who dared all to sail the seas and cross the oceans, looking for opportunity. It is the same spirit that sent their descendants to the American West, sometimes in conflict with the American cowboys, to find new opportunities.
As before, Guillermo tells his tale primarily through his fantastically detailed art. From the various ships sailing the seas to the cobblestone streets of a Basque village to the whale rendering station on the coast of America, Guillermo’s attention to detail brings the story to life. His faces convey the emotion to pull the story along, especially as the Basque crew encounter the unknown in first America and then the fantastic.
The story moves fast, from the first kill of Joanes and his crew to their encounter with the natives of North America and to the climax of this issue when Joanes confronts the killer black whale. There is just enough mystery to keep the story engaging and Guillermo makes judicious use of historical facts to ground this fictional story in real Basque history.
This is a great sequel to Guillermo’s first issue The Flying Whaleboat. I greatly look forward to the conclusion in issue three.
I have two items on my wish list for Guillermo. First, it would be awesome for him to do a “Handbook of Basque Mythology,” similar in vein to the old superhero handbooks. Even one issue with the primary deities of the Basque pre-Christian religion would be wonderful.
Second, I would love to see a commentary track for Joanes, with Guillermo describing his inspiration for various scenes and people, where references images might be from, and what historical documents he is pulling from. I think it would make a great addition to an already wonderful story.
Monday, February 20th, 2012
Way back in 1991, in between my sophomore and junior years at the University of Idaho, I took a year off to study both Basque and Spanish in the Basque Country through the program offered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium — USAC. I was more interested in Basque, but both my dad and my grandfather stressed the pragmatic wisdom of also learning Spanish. Back then, there weren’t many resources for an English speaker to learn Basque, especially one who knew next to nothing. USAC offered a course that was targeting students exactly like me. However, even so, things didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. Despite a semester of intensive Basque language course, I didn’t learn enough to be fluent. I chalk this up to two factors: Spanish was always easier, even for someone not studying Spanish directly (though I did have Spanish in high school) and my dad’s family speaks Bizkaino while I learned Batua. A seeming minor difference, but to someone just learning the language, that difference was night and day.
In any case, since that time, many more resources have become available to the English speaker wanting to learn Basque. One of the more recent ones is Aurrera!, a two volume textbook for studying Basque by Linda White. Now, while I have a number of Basque language resources, I still haven’t made the time to go through them in any serious manner, so I can’t really comment on how one book compares to another. That said, Aurrera! seems to be a very nice resource for the Euskara novice. Arranged by themes, such as Locations, Wants and Needs, and, most important for anyone visiting the Parte Vieja, Living it Up, Aurrera! quickly gets into real world language needs rather than focusing on more arcane grammar. Further, each chapter is accompanied by dialogs and activities that bring the language to life and pull the student into the language. Later chapters focus on all of the different tenses of the Basque verbs, so there are a number of such chapters, including “In the E-Mail that I Received,” that covers these concepts.
One thing that is missing for me are the tables that summarize declensions, conjugation, and the form of the auxiliary verbs. I’m not sure why, maybe it is my more mathematical bent, but encountering those tables as a student just learning Euskara, while certainly daunting in the complexity and density they represent, also gave order to the language for me. They summarized the language in a way I could get my head around. If Dr. White follows up with a second edition, I might suggest an appendix that collects such tables. Further, a brief chapter on the history of the Basque language, the current state, and the dialects would also be appreciated.
That said, for someone trying to learn the language, this seems an invaluable aid. I certainly have all intentions of going systematically through both volumes. Now, I just have to find the time!
More information about these books, as well as accompanying audio, can be found here.
Sunday, November 20th, 2011
I’m trying to get caught up on my email and am finally getting to some news that I should have shared months ago… My apologies to those who alerted me to these.
First, a little-known but interesting side story to the history of the United States. During the time that the fledgling country was developing its constitution, John Adams, later the second President of the US, was sent to Europe. During his trip, he made it to the Basque Country, and was suitably impressed, stating that “In a research like this, after those people in Europe who have had the skill, courage, and fortune, to preserve a voice in the government, Biscay, in Spain, ought by no means to be omitted. While their neighbours have long since resigned all their pretensions into the hands of kings and priests, this extraordinary people have preserved their ancient language, genius, laws, government, and manners, without innovation, longer than any other nation of Europe. Of Celtic extraction, they once inhabited some of the finest parts of the ancient Boetica; but their love of liberty, and unconquerable aversion to a foreign servitude, made them retire, when invaded and overpowered in their ancient feats, into these mountainous countries, called by the ancients Cantabria…” In recognition of this connection, Bilbao recently (recently being March…) installed a bust of John Adams. If you read Spanish, you can read about it here.
Basque literature doesn’t have a long history, with Basque being a written language only recently, and only standardized (in the form of Batua) in the last 50 or so years. However, given that delayed start, Basque literature has really matured. And thus the website basqueliterature.com, which is a portal in which “you will find information about different aspects of Basque literature: a brief history of Basque literature, catalogues about Basque writers, works and their translations, interesting links (institutional, academic, literary…) or news about Basque literature.”
Sunday, September 25th, 2011
The bombing of Gernika has become an integral part of the greater Basque experience, quite possibly of Basque identity itself. Every Basque, whether born in Bilbao or Boise, knows what happened in Gernika. Reproductions of Picasso’s Guernica can be found in even the simplest of basseriak in the rural Basque Country, in places where modern art hangs on walls centuries old.
Even so, while some of us may have grandparents that lived during the bombing, or ancestors who fought in the war, most of us have a more abstract, more cerebral connection to the bombing of Gernika. This is one reason I so highly recommend Guernica by Dave Boling. Boling’s first novel, Guernica recounts the events of the bombing of Gernika through the story of two families and three generations. Boling knows we are all aware of the basic historical facts, and so he begins by showing us that these two families have been devastated and the rest of the novel is spent introducing these characters to us, leading us up to the bombing. This is one of the few books where I was actually anxious for what happened next. I knew the bombing was coming, but I didn’t know how it would affect these particular characters, who would survive, who would die, and who would be damaged. Boling does a great job of developing characters that I cared about, especially as vehicles for me to better understand the tragedy that was Gernika.
An interesting and very effective device Boling uses is to interweave the drama of his fictional characters with the historical events unfolding around them, events that they have no inkling of, but which will dramatically affect their lives. We visit Jose Antonio Aguirre, the first lehendakari of Euskadi; Picasso as he reacts to the Spanish Civil War; and even Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, the man who orchestrated the bombing itself. We thus get some context for the storm that soon assails the protagonists, almost without warning.
There were a few little quibbles I had, as a few things sounded odd to my ear. For example, some of the women are given the surname of their husbands, something that doesn’t happen in Spain. And the characters, from the heart of Bizkaia, refer to the Basque Country as “Pays Basque” which also seemed very out of place. But, Boling had respected Basque scholars go through the manuscript and I wonder if this is more my own lacking.
I’m not going to reveal any more of the plot, as I don’t want to give away the ultimate fate of these characters that we grow to care about as they themselves grow, before, during, and after the bombing. Let me just say that as a characterization of events that were both horrific and defining for the Basques, Boling does an admirable job of bringing a human face to events that are otherwise incomprehensible.
If you’ve read Guernica, please share your thoughts!
Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Food is such an important aspect of Basque life and nothing defines the role of food better than the pintxo, that small morsel that you find on every counter in every bar throughout the Basque Country. As I mentioned earlier, in my most recent trip to the Basque Country, my friend Gonzalo Aranguren took me to some of his favorite bars and I was able to sample some great pintxos in Donostia. I was unaware, though, that there was an actual championship of pintxos, the brought together the best of the Basque Country to determine who made the best pintxos.
The last edition of the Euskal Herriko Pintxo Txapelketa was held in October in Hondarribia. The winning pintxo, “huevo al oro con migas de pastor y txipiron” by Bixente Muñoz, is pictured above (not sure exactly how this translates, but something like “golden egg with shepherd’s crumbs and squid”). On the website, they show pictures of other entries, all of which look amazing.
This is the fifth Pintxo Txapelketa and since 2008 they have also released a book of the best pintxos of the competition. Information about the books can be found here.
I personally think it is awesome that they have this championship. It pushes the boundaries of what the pintxo is, and keeps Basque cuisine on the cutting edge. It forces chefs to experiment and bring out their best ideas. If anyone has been part of the championship, please let us all know more about it!
Follow Buber's Basque Page
- Morris Student Plus, a great online Basque-English dictionary. There is a print version too.
- EITB24 is the best source for news
from the Basque Country in English.
- Astero is NABO's free Basque news & information service, brought to you by John Ysursa.
- Enciclopedia Auñamendi, the Basque online encyclopedia with entries on every Basque topic imaginable.
Gaurko Esaera Zaharra
Proverb of the Day
Besteen faltak aurreko aldean, geureak bizkarrean
Other people carry their faults up front. We carry our own behind our backs.