cover image Obabakoak


Bernardo Atxaga. Pantheon Books, $22 (326pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42404-8

This loosely structured novel centered on a remote Basque village portrays life as a perilous journey in which chance and free will intervene in equal measures. An unobtrusively dazzling collage of seemingly unrelated stories, town gossip, diary excerpts and literary theory, all held together by Atxaga's distinctive, tenderly ironic voice, it won Spain's National Prize for Literature. The Basque novelist and poet peoples the town of Obaba and its environs with a lovelorn schoolmistress, a cultured but self-hating dwarf, a schoolboy whose mining engineer father tricks him into growing up and an environmentalist who rescues lizards after playing wicked tricks with them as a youth. Atxaga also spins tales of a German painter driven mad by guilt over his romance with an Arab woman; of an Irish woman in search of her doctor husband who is missing in the Amazon jungle; and of a rescue mission on a Swiss mountain climbing expedition in Nepal that turns to murder. (Apr.)