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Atxaga / Jull Costa

The author speaks of his language, euskera

I write in a strange language. Its verbs, the structure of its relative clauses, the words it uses to designate ancient things – rivers, plants, birds – have no sisters anywhere on Earth. A house is etxe, a bee erle, death heriotz. The sun of the long winters we call eguzki or eki; the sun of the sweet, rainy springs is also – as you’d expect – called eguzki or eki ( it’s a strange language, but not that strange )

Born, they say, in the megalithic age, it survived, this stubborn language, by withdrawing, by hiding away like a hedgehog in a place, which, thanks to the traces it left behind there, the world named the Basque Country or Euskal Herria. Yet its isolation could never have been absolute – cat is katu, pipe is pipa, logic is lojika – rather, as the prince of detectives would have said, the hedgehog, my dear Watson, crept out of its hiding place ( to visit, above all, Rome and all its progeny )

The language of a tiny nation – so small you cannot even find it on the map – it never strolled in the gardens of the Court or past the marble statues of government buildings; in four centuries it produced only a hundred books... the first in 1545; the most important in 1643; the Calvinist New Testament in 1571; the complete Catholic Bible around 1860. Its sleep was long, its library brief (but in the twentieth century, the hedgehog awoke )

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