Arantxa Urretabizkaia

Arantxa Urretabizkaia
Photo of arantxa urretabizkaia1
Cover of 'koaderno gorria' by arantxa urretabizkaia (erein publishing house)1
The following is an article by M.J. Olaziregi. Translated from Basque by Kristin Addis.

Arantxa Urretabizkaias (San Sebastián, 1947) roots are to be found in the Lur publishing house. She holds a degree in history and is currently employed as a journalist, for which work she won the Rikardo Arregi Prize in 2001.

She has published in both poetry and prose. Of her works of poetry, San Pedro bezperaren ondokoak (Consequences of St. Peter's Eve, 1972) and Maitasunaren magalean (In the Lap of Love, 1982) are particularly noteworthy. In San Pedro bezperaren ondokoak she describes the end of adolescence through poems of great sensuality and musicality. Among her narrative works, the novels Zergatik Panpox (Why Cutie, 1979), Saturno (Saturn, 1987) and Koaderno gorria (The Red Notebook, 1998) deserve mention, as do the collection of stories entitled Aspaldian espero zaitudalako ez nago sekula bakarrik (Because I Waited for You for So Long, I'm Never Alone, 1983) and the children's narrative Aurten aldatuko da nire bizitza (This Year my Life will Change, 1992). Urretabizkaia has also written scripts for the films Albaniaren konkista (The Conquest of Albania, 1983) and Lauaxeta (Lauaxeta [the name of a Basque poet], 1987).

Zergatik Panpox is a short novel which is both the author's best known work and the one that has received the most praise from critics. It is a wonderfully enchanting and lyrical novel that consists of a single long interior monologue. It recounts the ups and downs of a day in the life of a mother and her 7-year-old son, whom she affectionately calls Panpox (Cutie). The protagonist is a single mother, who since her husband left her five years earlier has had to raise her son alone. The literary universe of Zergatik Panpox is similar to that of the works that emerged in the 1970s as part of the 'feminism of difference' movement of France.

The lyric prose of this first novel was not continued in the author's next work, the novel Saturno, which is similar to realist poetry. Saturno tells the story of the love between an alcoholic mariner and a nurse named Maite. It is written in a traditional style, without complications.

Urretabizkaia's latest novel, Koaderno gorria, belongs to the autobiographical genre used often by many contemporary female writers. It is from this novel that we made the selection for this issue of our journal. We believe that this is the author's most ambitious novel, one that has achieved a truly lyrical tone. Motherhood is at the center of this novel and the communications of Mother, with a capital M, spin the entire universe of the novel. As suggested by the title, the novel's primary thematic content is driven by what the protagonist writes in a red notebook. The novel is organized on two planes. On one, we learn of the experiences of Laura Garate, who has gone to Caracas on the orders of Mother to take the notebook to Mother's children. On the other, we have the long letter written by Mother to her children in the red notebook.

This letter is directed to the children, who are thus the recipients of the interior text, that is, the interlocutors, and therefore, the ones who put into motion the mechanism of memory. Although Urretabizkaia's Koaderno gorria should be included in the novel-writing tradition that deals with the female voice and memory, this novel breaks new ground from a physical and psychological point of view, bringing out the social and political aspects of motherhood. For the protagonist, political commitment is an endeavor that can't compare to motherhood and this, in a nutshell, is what the novel emphasizes once and again. The most important experiences of her motherhood (pregnancy, giving birth, bouts of illness...) are tied to political events (to the campaign for amnesty, to sit-ins and demonstrations), and to the commitments chosen by the characters. Thus, with great skill, Urretabizkaia offers us the confession of a woman forced to weigh political commitment against motherhood.

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