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Obabakoak: Stories from a Village Paperback – March 2, 2010
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This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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“Atxaga holds the attention by his sheer craft, by the complete control he exhibits.” ―The Independent
About the Author
Bernardo Atxaga was born in Gipuzkoa, Spain, in 1951 and lives in the Basque Country, writing in Basque and Spanish. He is a prizewinning novelist and poet whose books include The Accordionist's Son, The Lone Man, and The Lone Woman.
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Set in Obaba in the Basque country, the book allows myth and magic to overlap with theological questions in a story about a poor, ignored, and lonely boy who may or may not have turned into a white boar, which attacks and kills the cruelest people in the village and terrifies the priest. Animism adds pleasure to the life of an eleven-year-old girl living in the most remote corner of the village, as she walks with her grandfather, saying hello to the bat Gordon, her dog Toby, her horse Kent, and Frankie the chicken. In other stories, a nine-year-old boy meets a man who cannot stop talking and cannot function because his memories are so vivid, and then later meets an old friend in a psychiatric hospital who has had electroshock treatment and now has no memories at all. A young boy is seduced by the village teacher, frustrated because she has not heard from her lover at home, wantonly destroying the boy's life.
Angels appear and disappear, dreams and nightmares become real, and characters becomes incarnations of the devil. While religion seems to inform the lives of the characters, religion here is a cultural characteristic built from the stories the characters have shared from their own lives, and not a religion based on external doctrine. The deaths, and even murders, which are at the root of many of these stories are often attributed more to fate or superstition than to any sense of religious destiny, and as the stories of these deaths are repeated a village heritage and history are formed.
The second half of the book, "In Search of the Last Word," consists of many very short stories, most of them traditional plots common to other parts of the world, and as Atxaga develops these stories, the characters also talk about writing and what stories tell about the culture and the characters who tell and retell them. One section, entitled "How to Write a Story in Five Minutes," a playful and teasing examination of the creative process, is hilarious, while another, "How to Plagiarize," gets into the ironies and humor of developing themes that have existed for generations. The conclusion will leave the reader with a huge smile of recognition as old characters come back for an encore, not necessarily pleasant.
Ultimately, "Life," however, "is a journey full of difficulties in which Chance and Free Will intervene in equal measure, a journey, in which, despite those difficulties...it is possible to advance and safely reach that final pond where the Great Mother Goose awaits us." Stories within stories within stories take the reader on dozens of journeys to discover new places, new and strange characters, and old themes seen in new incarnations. And the book is really fun! Mary Whipple
The Accordionist's Son: A Novel (Lannan Translation Selection (Graywolf Paperback))