Snippet: Fernando Aramburu’s “Fatherland”

Fernando Aramburu, Patria [Fatherland], 2016

Publisher’s summary:

On the day that [the terrorist organization] ETA anounces that it will abandon the armed struggle [for the Basque Country’s independence] [Oct. 20, 2011], Bittori visits the cementery to tell the grave of her husband, el Txato, assassinated by the terrorists, that she has decided to return to the house where they lived. Will she be able to live with those who harassed her before and after the attack that upset her life and that of her family? Will she be able to know who was the hooded man who on a rainy day killed her husband on the way home from his transport company? She might arrive as discretely as she wants, Bittori’s presence will definitely alter the village’s false tranquility, above all that of her neighbor Miren, an intimate friend in other times and mother of Joxe Mari, an imprisoned terrorist and suspect of Bittori’s worst fears. What happened between these two women? What has poisoned the life of their sons and husbands who were so close in the past? With their hidden sprains and unwavering convictions, their wounds and courage, the incandescent story of their lives before and after the crater, that was the death of el Txato, talks to us about the impossibility to forget and the necessity to forgive in a community broken by political fanatism.

From the review by José-Carlos Mainer, “Babelia”, El País:

… it is an extensive and memorable novel that encompasses 40 years of fascistization of a closed and distrustful society, and as many years of moral degradation of government institutions. Everything’s there: the world of the armed struggle and the imprisonment of its heroes, the hypocrite and cruel concealment of its victims, the constitution of a mentality of  a “chosen” and persecuted “people,” the sultry role of the Catholic church and its parish imams, the daily and systematic division of a community into the good and the bad. Aramburu has portrayed the two faces of an archaic and patriarchal society. And it becomes clear that the same mentality that sustains a great social cohesion has been the breeding ground for the justification of violence and of the fascist harrassment of the suspect. …

Patria is above all a great and pondered novel. But the genre’s tradition carries with it the virtue of explaining to its contemporaries something of the world they have to live in: to amalgamate evocation and analysis.

More information by the publisher on the writer Fernando Aramburu (San Sebastian, 1959) who since 1985 has resided in Germany.

To know more about the actual state of (political) affairs in the Basque Country, follow the news about the regional elections that will take place on Sept. 25, 2016. The governing party right now is the “moderate nationalist” PNV (Basque nationalist party); EH Bildu is the “radical” nationalist party pursuing independence from Spain. It will be interesting to see how the local branch of Podemos will fare, a party that defines itself as more interested in social justice than nationalism.


UPDATE March 14, 2018:

Meanwhile, Patria has been translated into other languages, an there haven been English-speaking articles on the book:

Politico (March 2017)

The Conversation (August 2017)


On the German version:


FAZ (author interview)


SOURCE: Tusquets (publisher);  review in “Babelia”, El País, Sept. 3, 2016, p. 9 [printed edition]

3 thoughts on “Snippet: Fernando Aramburu’s “Fatherland”


    PATRIA tells the story of fight, misunderstanding, hate, blood, pain, and sorrow. When it reaches the point of no return, the abysmal darkness of absurdity it bottoms out thanks to fraternal regret and forgiveness.

    Is there any example in history, where a national liberation movement taxes its own people rather than the enemy? The book doesn’t intend to answer this question; however, the reader feels that it is ubiquitously underlying.

    Who has interest to extortionate the Basques, to steal their money, to divide them, to discredit their cause? ¡SPAIN AND NOBODY ELSE!

    Let me quote Carmela Pratt in her remarkable book “Bad Bounce”:

    “Since the advent of democracy, … Those who passed themselves off as heroes on both sides had often turned out to be miserably corrupt extortionists fearing neither God nor man. The Spanish police and the Basque terrorists had lived for too long in the promiscuity of a clandestine world. The compartmentalized hierarchy specific both to terrorism and the fight against it allowed protagonists to escape control of their superiors, who were too distant and often incapable of exercising their power to the full. Persons who showed themselves to be enemies on the outside, consorted with one another behind the scenes, and shared intimate comradeship. The declared objective was to destroy the other, but both soon understood that to come to their ends would deprive each of their raison d’être. Gradually, unbeknown to the world and perhaps even to themselves, they had become objective allies. Some had changed sides, others became corrupt. In the end, none of them knew for what or for whom they were working. Their job came with peril: every day they risked their necks, but for the actors in this bloody play, nothing was more feared than peace. Having understood that terrorism harmed the separatist cause, Madrid let them do their thing. As Madrid indulged in squabbles in the Northern provinces, the Basques would discredit themselves in the eyes of the world.”

    Basques cannot be enemies of the Basques, in spite of Madrid efforts to persuade them. The novel final hug shows that beyond regret or forgiveness the future of the Basque country lies on lucidity. Precisely what the characters of the novel have been missing throughout this tragic story.

  2. Pingback: Snippet: Aramburu’s “Self-portrait without me” | literary rambles

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