OBABAKOAK by Bernardo Atxaga


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 Distinctive, subtle storytelling in a wide-ranging yet curiously cohesive novel, awarded the Spanish National Prize for Literature, from Basque writer Atxaga. Effectively combining the style and nuances of an oral tradition with themes exotic and surreal, Atxaga makes use of a variety of settings--from the streets of Hamburg to the jungles of the Upper Amazon, as well as the Basque and Spanish countryside--to create his imaginary land of Obaba. In a series of self-contained chapters, tales of people in varying degrees of psychological distress unfold--such as that of a troubled boy of 14 who has a vision of an enticing young woman in Hamburg, with whom he begins an intense if brief correspondence only to learn decades later that his father was really the one answering his letters, as a way of giving him guidance. Substantially more attention is given to the unfortunate narrator of the final section of the story, whose obsession with the possibility that a small green lizard could enter the human brain through the ear and cause idiocy, and whose belief that an eccentric schoolmate with a passion for lizards had intentionally reduced another boy to a simpleton by this means years before, ultimately lead him to suffer the same sad fate. Dark suggestions of suicide and sinister occurrences across centuries mingle with wry, humorous moments and ironic discussions of literary theory and the value of plagiarism, yielding a rich concoction of ideas and images. The work of an original voice and a considerable talent: a debut that's as delightful as it is disturbing, and full of surprises.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42404-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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