Obabakoak Stories from a Village

Bernardo Atxaga; Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

Graywolf Press




336 Pages


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Obabakoak is a quixotic, gem-like collection about life in Obaba, a remote, exotic Basque village. A schoolboy's mining-engineer father tricks him into growing up, an unfortunate environmentalist rescues deceptively harmless lizards, and a rescue mission on a Swiss mountain-climbing expedition in Nepal turns into murder. Obaba is peopled with innocents and intellectuals, shepherds and schoolchildren, while everyone from a lovelorn schoolmistress to a cultured but self-hating dwarf wanders across the page.

A tinge of darkness mingles with moments of wry humor in this dazzling collage of stories, town gossip, diary excerpts, and literary theory, all held together by Bernardo Atxaga's distinctive and tenderly ironic voice. An unforgettable work from an international literary giant, whom The Observer (London) listed among the top twenty-one writers of the twenty-first century.


Praise for Obabakoak

"A delicious literary paella, very baroque and very Spanish."—The New York Times Book Review

"A brilliantly inventive writer . . . He understands the nature of storytelling and is at once terribly moving and wildly funny."—A.S. Byatt

"A Fine, shimmering, mercurial novel."—The Observer (London)

"Atxaga holds the attention by his sheer craft, by the complete control he exhibits."—The Independent

"In this collection, named for the Basque village of Obaba, acclaimed novelist/poet Atxaga presents stories of his neighbors at home and in their travels. (Atxaga translated this work from Basque to Spanish, while Costa translated from Spanish to English.) The major part of the collection deals with a literary gathering at the home of the 'uncle from Montevideo,' who hosts friends monthly for a bout of drinking and storytelling. The stories themselves are presented here, with the activities of the participants seen in alternate chapters. One of the storytellers theorizes that 'a story amounts to nothing more than a simple arithmetical operation. Not an operation involving numbers, of course, but one based on the addition and subtraction of elements such as love, hate, hope, desire, honor, and other such things.' What's added here is usually time and reflection, as many of the stories go back to childhood, as viewed through wiser and more experienced eyes. The reader whose adventures come mainly through the printed page will welcome this collection, set mostly in Basque Spain, though there are occasional forays into other locales such as Germany and the Amazon. Recommended for short story and world literature readers."—Debbie Bogenshutz, Johnnie Mae Berry Library, Cincinatti, Ohio, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Bernardo Atxaga; Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

  • 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.

    Margaret Jull Costa has been a translator of Spanish and Portuguese for more than twenty years, translating such authors as Javier Marías, Ramón del Valle-Inclan, José Saramago, and Fernando Pessoa.