Novel set in Basque Country – Homeland by Fernando Aramburu
Homeland to the Basque Country
The Basque country in Spain is home to some of the most stunning landscape in Spain but also the most complex politics. Homeland tries to explain the impossible -friends whose families are divided by the conflicting loyalties of terrorism. When such strong emotions, loyalties and a sense of duty come into play, which side do you take?
In the novel these two Basque families are representative of the country at large. The story is set between the 1980s and the present day and looks at the terrorist organisation ETA across the years, with flashbacks filling in the blanks. The country was stained by terrorism for many years until the group suspended its activities in 2011 before it finally disbanded.
This is the human story of what it was like to have lived through that time, experienced it and to still have the scars, both physically and mentally.
This book has made an impression on me. One due to its sheer size – 581 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.
I almost didn’t read this as I’ve read so much about ETA, the Basque terrorist group, terrorism in Spain and the many deaths as a result. 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. It’s their stories, their reasoning, their experiences we hear. 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 1959 – the very year ETA was founded and so this lends extra weight to the novel for me. It’s his story and his country’s story too.
There’s some very controversial lines and ideas brought up throughout the novel but then is this not what happens during war time? We’re reading this with modern eyes so whilst certain parts jar with my understanding of the history, I can’t say it didn’t compel me to read on.
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.
BookTrail Boarding Pass: Homeland
Twitter : @fernandoarambur