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Cheating boyfriends, a serious illness, a gay son: cheap drama that serves as a sauce to cover up bland characters. This is a shame, for when Aramburu does come back to his main theme, he does an admirable job in representing the moral compromises and the climate of fear that characterize the Basque struggle for independence. Nevertheless, again I admit that, however flimsy the material, the telenovela aspects were easy reading and thus also served as good listening practice.

And since I am not really in a position to judge this novel on literary grounds, I will end by recommending the audiobook to everyone hoping to improve their Spanish. View all 3 comments. Jan 05, Heptapod rated it it was amazing.

Hispania. Volume 75, Number 2, May 1992

It made me understand how life was under the ETA times, and how it could affect people lives. Only a few can resist it but end up usually in exile. I loved reading it, anxious to go on and unable to stop at night. I wish it was somehow described the situation of the oppression previously under Franco dictatorship, how were the Vassos treated? Oct 01, Anna Maria Ballester Bohn rated it really liked it. Probably not the height of literary style or sophistication. And so so great precisely because of that. So necessary.

So simple. So human. So profound, so full of compassion. And, last but not least, so horrifying and gripping. Feb 07, Angela Leon rated it it was amazing.

Las Gomas (Panorama de Narrativas) (Spanish Edition)

A must read! I did enjoy this with some reservations. We are in very similar territory to 'Milkman' by Anna Burns - a close examination of a society and time wracked by terrorism; and the effects of that terrorism on an intimate family and closed social grouping. Both writers have personal experience, and parallels are striking even down to the dead cat! Both novels employ a non-linear, mosaic-like chronological development I did enjoy this with some reservations.


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Both novels employ a non-linear, mosaic-like chronological development which does make demands on the reader. I enjoyed Aramburu's short, sharp, apparently unconnected scenes which casually throw in seemingly tangental asides which effectively take the overall narrative forward - once I understood what he is up to. His characterisation is slow-burn as well, which make the first three hundred pages quite confusing. But the novel grows in emotional power as it progresses. Also, the second half settles down into a more classic chronologically linear tempo. In comparison Burns' novel takes far more narrative and stylistic risks, avoids conventionality more successfully, and from a literary point of view I would rate it as the better novel.

Aramburu's overall plot, divested of his kaleidoscope structure, is actually pretty predictable: the great charm of his work is in the unpredictability of his kaleidoscope shards and how they fit together. It's this aspect, initially difficult, which ultimately kept me engrossed across pages. I've seen some criticism here of perceived 'telenovella' aspects: I think this is slightly unfair.

Unlike Burns, Aramburu is very interested in the long-term after effects of terrorism, of time creating opportunities for repentance, forgiveness and healing, and shows these aspects working out in the lives of his two families, down through two generations. Of course from a narrative perspective events will happen - Aramburu is contrasting life outside with the solitary prisoner inside wasting his life away: and these outside developments do culminate in the narrative and thematic climaxes in a satisfying way. Focussing on two families, this novel explores what happens to a small community in the Basque country impacted by ETA.

It's difficult to totally comprehend what it was like to live in the midst of such times but the author manages to convey a sense of the era. The writing is so good and the translation is excellent. First of all, Aramburu prefers to take the beaten track. There are ETA members, who are bad, and there are all others, politically more or less inert Basques, who are different but generally good; this is proved by a total happy-end of all storylines. Besides, some storylines disturbingly resemble soap operas.

If I had an opportunity to ask Aramburu a question, I would ask, would he have taken a different approach if he'd written about ETA during the dictatorship.

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The setting takes place in post-Francoist Spain, and the history of ETA is the history of political degradation. There are a few chapters, dedicated to Joxe Mari, the ETA fighter, sitting in prison and reevaluating his decisions, and these parts are good but completely lost in lengthy mundane descriptions. Aug 19, SandraV rated it liked it. The themes explored were interesting enough and I do see the literary value. However, it was dragged out way too long with the overall arc very unclear and disjointed. The blatant self insert was so very eyeroll inducing and completely unnecessary.

Also the casually thrown in mentions of sexual violence for no narrative purpouse at all? Viist the locations in the novel This book has made an impression on me. One due to its sheer size — large format pages and fairly small print, and the sheer scope of the novel itself. It aims to look at the Basque problem, the issue of terrorism of the country at large.

That is one epic theme. Break it down into the involvement, opinions and experiences of two families and you start to understand the wealth of the journey the writer takes you on. A final University exam came to mind making my hands go all sweaty. But I did read it and it was interesting to get a view from two families who came to be on two separate sides of the political fence. That of course was a matter of life and death. Take a side, any side, and the risk was death. What the book does well is the build up of the fear amongst the people of the Basque country and of Spain at large.

The group came, grew, expanded and swept away the past without anyone noticing what was going on. The sheer scale and fear were unprecedented and this came across well in the novel. Imagine being close friends but then not just growing apart but being forced so far apart as you can be. When someone from one family is assassinated, the member of the other family actually joins the group. I think this is what makes for a fascinating and shocking account of the struggle. The human angle of it all is the most chilling.

When one person is murdered, more lives are destroyed. Family life dies with them and this novel is a strong reminder of that. Although this is a fictional account of the ETA years, and the setting is vague, this reads as a general yet personal account of the struggle.

The author himself was born in San Sebastian in — the very year ETA was founded and so this lends extra weight to the novel for me. Epic in scope and style, and I have to say, for me it was over long. A shorter, more concise read would have given it a stronger impact.

Homeland Patria in Spanish is a novel looks at issues so relevant sadly to our modern world. And the people, the families who live them.

I have to admit that I found it difficult to get involved with Homeland. The fragmented nature of the narrative and timeline may have a lot to do with this. Small clusters of short, related chapters follow each other with no apparent reason for how they are cut up, or how they are ordered. This made it difficult to remember who the characters were, particularly as they all have unfamiliar Basque names.

It is only really in the last third or so, when I started reading for longer periods at a time I have to admit that I found it difficult to get involved with Homeland. It is only really in the last third or so, when I started reading for longer periods at a time that I started to get more into the book. This is also where its emotional payload is located. As someone points out in one of the other reviews, I should perhaps also account for the fact that what the book describes it almost totally alien to me.

Having grown up in France in the 80s and 90s, attacks by the ETA were not unfamiliar occurrences in the news but I have very little knowledge of the circumstances related in the book beyond those headlines. A Basque or Spanish reader would have a much strong emotional involvement, fuelled with memories and possibly direct experience.

The quality of the translation may also have something to do with my difficulties. Aramburu's style is colloquial and idiosyncratic, with sudden shifts of narrative voice within sentences and intrusion of a character's internal monologue within descriptive sentences. This could be confusing but it thankfully isn't.

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Translating a book however is not an easy thing. Reading what the academic Albert MacAdam has produced is proof positive of that fact. What his shoddy effort gives us is a stilted text the language of which is often not idiomatic, gap-toothed with missing words and letters. I'm not sure why the need was felt to americanise the text, either. The success of the book and its very nature, as well as my gut feeling, tell me that it should be probably is, in the original much more gripping than what I experienced. Despite this major failing of the version I read, didn't hate the book, far from it and I am certainly glad a read it.


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Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, was the separatist armed movement that wanted to establish an independent, socialist Basque state from to Read it! Jun 15, Sandra rated it really liked it. Very well written could have been shorter. Although the length helps to define very well the characters it felt a bit too long and I guess the author could have kept the story a bit shorter. Anyway recommending to take the time and read it! This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers.