19 abr. 2011

More Obabakoak

The central section of Obabakoak, "Nueve palabras en honor del pueblo de Villamediana," is fascinating. The unnamed narrator goes to a small village in Castile, Villamediana, with nothing in particular to do. This section is kind of a parody of novels of the Generation of 1898, like those of Baroja or Azorín, in which a character spends some time in a Castilian village and complains about the low level of the culture. The novel was written originally in Basque, and most of it takes place in the mountains in the province of Guipúzcoa or cities of Northern Europe, so this section is a bit different in emphasis, although there are thematic continuities. One of the main threads is the idea of the outsider, the pariah.

Anyway, in one of the sections, the narrator comments on the two bars of the village. In the nicer bar, frequented by people of more wealth, they explain to the narrator that their bar is the progressive one, and that the other is frequented by Fascists. They believe that the narrator is a journalist, even though he is not, and constantly pester him for his opinions about issues of the day.

In the other bar, they explain to him that the difference between the two bars is economic. They are the poor people, and the other bar is frequented by those who own land. Here, the talk is not of politics, but of hunting, the epic struggle of man against animal. What is interesting is how the elite marginalizes the working class twice over, first economically and then culturally. The narrator ends up preferring the poor people's bar, because they only bother him when it's his turn to pay for drinks. It's true that he is repulsed by the killing of animals, and presumably by the politics of the poorer bar, but he doesn't like the condescending liberal elites either.

Of course, the Civil War in Spain was fought between the bourgeois and the proletarians, so we would expect the proles to be the progressives and the bourgeois to be the right wing, but during the period of the novel (1980s), the roles are reversed. Much like in the contemporary US, where impoverished people often vote to protect the economic interests of the ultra rich.

In another section of this part of the book, the narrator learns about the social marginalization of the shepherds. Shepherds are the social outcasts of the village, presumably because that is the lowest available occupation. However, a friend explains to the narrator that there are two classes of shepherds, the white and the black. The blacks (not literally black of course) drink too much, are violent, and curse. The white shepherds have blue eyes and are almost angelic in their behavior. You get the idea.

1 comentario:

Clarissa dijo...

Sounds fascinating. I have never even heard about this novel until you mentioned it in your blog. Now I will have to make it part of my Maintaining My Scholarly Base Month.