The Millions

Literary Testimony: Fernando Aramburu Tells the Basque Story

As it turns out, Spanish author Fernando Aramburu and I frequent the same bookstore in the Basque city of San Sebastian. Cozy and family run, the bookstore Donosti looks onto a fountain, sandstone apartment facades in the Belle Époque style, and foot traffic that crisscrosses the circular plaza. As far as I know, he and I have never squeezed past one another in the little space not occupied by books in the store. However, two summers ago, it was there that I first encountered his monumental novel Homeland, which has recently been released in English by Pantheon, translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam. At the time, the novel was featured on the bookstore’s front display and had likely been there since its publication nine months earlier. It was in its 19th printing then and had sold 350,000 copies.

I possess a healthy skepticism was, in fact, the real deal. They gave me the novel’s thicker brushstrokes: Two Basque families in a village near San Sebastian are torn apart when the father of one is assassinated by ETA, the Basque terrorist group that the oldest son of the other family belongs to.

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