Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Basque Writer in The Netherlands

This article was published at Radio Netherlands Worldwide:

Kristina Goikoetxea Langarika

'Twelve hours is a long time'

By David Swatling


Basque writer Kristina Goikoetxea Langarika thinks the Dutch language is like the children's toy Lego: compact and colourful. The same can be said of her Radio Books story Twelve Hours is a Long Time.

"Basque is the language in which I read poetry before I go to sleep," says Kristina Goikoetxea Langarika. "Basque verses inspire me to dream. Then I get up in the morning, spill a waterfall of Spanish into my diary and feel ready to start typing Dutch words into my computer."

Goikoetxea arrived in the Netherlands in 1995 after completing a degree in Translation Studies from the University of Granada. She won a scholarship to study Dutch literature at Leiden University.

Between languages

"Living between two languages made me more open to a third," explains the author who grew up in Spanish Basque Country. "From the very beginning I learned that language is a bridge and not a wall." After her studies, she wrote for various cultural magazines in both Basque and Spanish. A desire to tell her own stories in Dutch led Goikoetxea to study at the Writers School in Utrecht.

Last year Goikoetxea's first novel written in Dutch was published. Evamar tells the story of three generations of Basque women in the fictional rural village of Uranda. "For me Uranda could be anywhere because everywhere there are generals, men in grey, mountain caves, a north and a south, and people that move from one place to another in search of something better."

Lego language

Writing in Dutch reminded her of playing Lego as a child. "We often missed many bricks," she says. "Nevertheless we always managed to make our castles with the blocks we had. It never looked like the one on the cover, but it was a castle made our own way."

Goikoetxea remains philosophical about her Dutch literary future. "Sometimes I wonder whether I will gain more and more Lego pieces over time," she muses. "What would happen if I had all the pieces; if I didn't have to be creative about using the small range I have; if I was so familiar with them that I used them as ‘one should use them'?"

She notes that the official Lego webpage says every brick has an endless number of construction possibilities, and six standard bricks can be combined in at least 100,981,500 ways. "So, I still have enough bricks for quite a few castles."

For her contribution to Radio Books, another small village is imagined - or two, to be precise. After many years of missionary work in Africa, a man returns to his birthplace for a bittersweet homecoming.

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