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Set in the current Basque Country, "Martutene" is an ambitious and truly grand novel with a splendid array of characters: two bourgeois couples worn down by years of marriage, their group of friends, and the newcomer Lynn, a young American sociologist. An insightful portrait of the post-ETA Basque country and an exploration of those thoughts and feelings that expose our miseries and our deepest fears as human beings. The plot is driven by two main stories - those of Abaitua and Pilar, and of Julia and Martin - against the backdrop of Martutene, a neighbourhood in San Sebastian. This mixed residential and industrial area, where remains from the rural past merge with discrete mansions from the Belle Epoque, and with modern architectonic disasters and the local prison, carries deep socio-political resonances and serves, in the author's own words, as a metaphor of the whole Basque Country. Through Abaitua's and Julia's alternate accounts we learn the story of both couples, two worn down marriages. The arrival of Lynn, a young American sociologist who stays at Martin and Julia's house, unravels the emotional background of the two couples.Lynn plays a pivotal role that induces them to explain some of everyday life's problems in the current Basque country, particularly its identity and language.
At the same time, her affair with Abaitua masterfully plays out against Max Frisch's "Montauk" and offers and engaging love story.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"A disruptive romance illuminates complexities of ethnic and political identity in Saizarbitoria's substantial novel set in the Basque region in Spain... a probing and sophisticated work that is already being celebrated as a modern classic."-Booklist, starred review; "In its eight hundred pages, the rich and even exciting plotlines feel as if they unfold slowly, surrounded as they are by so much other material, but that is also one of the book's pleasures and surely why others are predicting it will be a classic. Like the Basque people, Martutene gives so much."-Words Without Borders; "A sprawling novel of post-independence movement Basque life and its discontents ... rich in perception."-Kirkus Reviews; "Martutene is probably the most important Basque novel yet to be written; this is a primus inter pares book destined to become the central piece of the new canon."-Joseba Gabilondo (Michigan State University); "Martutene could well be considered the highest summit of Basque-language novels ... This superb novel recalls the greatness of Tolstoy and the obsessive stylistic accuracy of Flaubert ... It is a novel that rightfully deserves being included among the greatest novels of the twenty-first century."-Angel Basanta, El Cultural; "A landmark Basque novel. Nothing compares to it."-Jon Kortazar, Insula; "Perhaps one of the best novels, if not the best, ever written in Basque language."-Suma Cultural; "Saizarbitoria is one of the greatest Basque-language writers ... A veteran of Basque literature that has also been the first to write a modern novel."-Benito Garrido, Culturamas; "I would dare say that nobody in our literature has shown such mastery in the creation of fiction characters."-Hasier Etxeberria, Zuzeu.com