Obabakoak by Bernardo Atxaga

Read: 22 April, 2013

I picked this up as my Basque read for the Reading Around the World challenge.

It’s a collection of short stories that seem unconnected. Though the title of the book literally means “The people/things of Obaba,” though in his prologue, Atxaga notes that another possible interpretation would be “stories from Obaba.” Even so, Obaba features only in a few of the stories.

In many ways, I found this to be a very international book. And though my purpose in choosing it was to get something of an insider’s perspective into Basque country, most of the stories deal with being an outsider there – the very first, “Esteban Werfell,” being about the child of a German caught between his father’s culture and the culture that surrounds him. And all of it is bound around with the idea of the outsider infiltrating and replacing the local.

There are some odd connecting themes to the stories, subtle enough that I had missed the ones I’ve found during my initial reading, and I’m sure that there are plenty that I haven’t spotted.

I really enjoyed most of the stories just from an entertainment perspective, but the more I think about the book, the more I feel that I have to think about. Each story is complex, and they inform each other in interesting and surprising ways. I think that I’ll be carrying Obabakoak around with me for a while.

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