Bernardo Atxaga: "I’m writing a book on homecoming, getting somewhere, not on the way to get somew". kirmen uribe, mielanjel elustondo   I  zaldieroa Bernardo Atxaga was feeling pretty happy when we ran into him the other day. He’s just back from a poetry reading session in London where he read with Canadian poetess Anne Carson at the Royal Festival Hall. He’s writing a novel at the moment. A book to bring it all back home. A rounding off of all he has written until now. - "To be Bernardo Atxaga, to me anyway, was to be a writer, and it was like having a special uniform. Apart from being a writer, you had to do lots of other things."
- "I don't want any nervousness to influence in the outcome of the book. I want the book to gently flow along at its own pace. I have to relaxed for that to happen."
- "You need time to understand that just as writhing is the joining of things, it also takes them apart. It also undoes."

What is Bernardo Atxaga up to at the moment?
Doing what I want to, I’m writing a book on homecoming, not on the way to get somewhere, but about when you actually get there. It’s time to put a dot on the “i”, pause for moment in life, and a good book is the result of that pause. As a consequence, many ideas from other books need to re-appear, the hotel, Obaba, the brother... All of it. It’s like rewriting or adjusting everything I’ve found so far. For instance, it’s like when you look back at someone you feel you really know well, let’s say your brother, You really want to delve into it all. That’s I want to do, in my own way.

You seem to be writing with great care, you don’t seem to be in any kind of a rush.
That’s something I often think about myself. It’s not because I lack work, I work a lot, everyday. Maybe my present situation is not the ideal one, but I’m working away, I’ve been working hard for a long, long time. I’m doing things and I’m also undoing them. Maybe that’s the key to everything that happens to me. For instance, the document that we call a sack, the home to written work that was originally considered as accepted but later rejected, I’m talking about finished work, not drafts, well... the sack is a hundred pages long at this stage. That means I’m removing a lot of stuff from the book. I often tell friends that I don’t know if the book itself will be any good, but that the book about the writing of the book will be a cracker. It’ll be a great “making-off”. I write some books really quickly, Behi Euskaldun Baten Memoriak for instance. Others like Obabakoak I was much slower in writing. I can’t finish this new one any earlier than I will. I’ll need about five months to finish it. It should be done by then, but I’ll definitely need that amount of time at least.

You’re saying that you don’t want to tie yourself to a set date for finishing.
I had expected to finish it by January, but it would have been a bit forced. I don’t want any nervousness to influence in the outcome of the book. I want the book to gently flow along at its own pace. I have to be relaxed for that to happen. I don’t know what the end result will be like, I mean, I can’t guarantee that the book will be good. You just can’t say. But I hope, if all else fails, the book about the book will deliver.

Our grandmother used to knit everyday, but as soon as she had finished the quilt, she’d pull on the wool, undo the whole thing and start all over again.
That’s Ulysses, that’s what his wife Penelope used to do. You need time to understand that just as writing is the joining of things, it also takes them apart. It also undoes. This becomes clear when you correct your work. Correction, many times, is just that, it’s undoing something. It’s also something that’s becoming more and more important in my work. The structure is really ambitious. There is a tightening and loosening within the story. The start of the story cannot be to charged because if it is, where do you go from there? It needs a certain symmetry. That’s what I’m looking for. This means I have to shift and move stuff, and just about everything has to move. Maybe it won’t be noticed in the finished article, but the work itself is really interesting. I really look forward to getting up in the morning and thinking “Right, what’s going on here?”. From that angle on things - I’m talking about “me the writer” – I’m really happy. The writing of this book has been very enjoyable and interesting. I’m really having a ball on this one.

Rumour has it you have been saying that you want to drop the name Atxaga. They say you want to start from scratch again.
I was right. It was definitely something I should have done. There are many reasons why. One of them is that things have greatly changed since I first started to write. Another one is that this isn’t any old organisation or club we’re talking about. We’re talking about the culture and literature of the Basque Country, and that has many consequences because there aren’t an awful lot of us out there. To be Bernardo Atxaga, to me anyway, was to be a writer, and it was like having a special uniform. Apart from being a writer, you had to do lots of other things; talks, work in favour of literature, be a walking pamphlet, play a certain role, give interviews...
I think it’s a lucky thing to be able to do, and it’s a good thing. It’s part and parcel of the trade. But I just don’t find that, the Atxaga thing, attractive. It’s as if an icon has been created: this prize, that one...
I think I’ve fulfilled that aspect of my work. The things I wanted to say were suddenly whipped out of my hands. It could have been done better, but “let he who has not sinned cast the first stone”, don’t you think? I could have done it better, maybe I could have been a bit more discreet, but... just think of Gabriel Aresti starting, writing... up to his neck in all kinds of trouble and then he gives up writing. Imagine Mirande giving up writing. There’s not one single one who hasn’t had this type of thing, except maybe Txillardegi, even if he’s been a littler irregular. We haven’t been able to develop as much as we should. There’s lots of little extra things we’re expected to do and we’ve had it easier than others.
All the same, enough’s enough. It’s time for intimacy. I’m a writer but for years people have been coming to me non-stop asking me to be Guest of Honour at festivals and celebrations. I have said no, I mean, I say: “if you want someone, ask a boxer, a handball player or a football player, but please, leave me alone”. I can’t be doing all these extra things. I hope my name will end up associated to those things. Some people say that it doesn’t matter what name is used, but I disagree. If I use my name, I set down the rules of the game. I have no doubt that I will take a different approach on things. Now, I just can’t.
I think I will be much calmer. That’s the objective anyway and with a bit of luck, I’ll be able to pull it off. I will not be Atxaga anymore when it comes to my work.