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The Koldo Mitxelena Chair in Chicago analyzes Basque contemporary fiction by screening “Loreak”


One of the directors of “Loreak,” Joxe Mari Goenaga, talked to students of the Koldo Mitxelena Chair via videoconference (photoEtxepare)
One of the directors of “Loreak,” Joxe Mari Goenaga, talked to students of the Koldo Mitxelena Chair via videoconference (photoEtxepare)


The Koldo Mitxelena Chair at the University of Chicago analyzed the world of Basque contemporary fiction thanks to professor Mari Jose Olaziregi under the title, “Basque Contemporary Fiction: National Ghosts, Global Audiences.” Besides the academic program, this year also included a screening of the film Loreak where students were able to talk, via video-conference, to one of its directors, Jose Mari Goenaga. 

Chicago, IL, USA.   Since March 29, the Koldo Mitxelena Chair at the University of Chicago has provided its students the opportunity to delve into the world of Basque contemporary creation and fiction, thanks to literary expert Mari Jose Olaziregi.

The course concluded on April 28 with the screening of the film Loreak, by Basque directors Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga.  After seeing the film, the students talked to one of the directors, Goenaga, via videoconference.

Memory of the Past

According to the Etxepare Basque Institute, the course analyzed how Basque literature has created the memory of the past over the last four decades.  The course began by examining the 1960s, the time of the essay Quousque tandem! (1963), written by sculptor Jorge Oteiza and the book of poems Harri eta Herri (1964) by Gabriel Aresti establishing a dialogue between the vanguard and oral literature, outside of this tradition or no, like bertsolarism or oral improvisation of verses that rhyme.

In fact, certain legends transmitted orally serve to construct, with techniques that resemble South American magical realism, the imaginary worlds that flooded the stories in the decade of the 1980 thanks to authors like Atxaga, Lertxundi, or Mujika Iraola.  Imaginary worlds like Obaba that served as a voice for these other peripheries and silenced ones that until the arrival of the romantics didn’t exist in the western literary canon.

The excellent reception of Obabakoak (1988) by Atxaga on an international level, also permitted the reflection on expectations and the place that international critics gave Basque works. They also reflected on the possibilities that a minority, like Basque literature, to create a niche in the so-called World Republic of Letters.

The dialogue on the social and ethical function of literature in a politically contentious environment, like that of the Basque Country, was also superimposed on the current debate, encouraged by such authors as Zaldua, Harkaitz Cano and Eider Rodriguez, about the possibility of Basque literature exporting the abundant and original creative writing that recalls and reconstructs our most recent political past.

The rise of novels and films on the Civil War in Spain or ETA’s terrorism, over the last two decades, and the survival and performances at the sites of memory such as Gernika or the so-called nationalist (Basque soldiers) by means of new versions of old songs have served as an introduction to comment on the narrative of Basque contemporary authors such as Ramon Saizarbitoria, Arantxa Urretabizkaia or Kirmen Uribe. 

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