Book Notes: Ramon Saizarbitoria’s Miren and Romanticism

Uy. Uyuyuyuyuy. What a terrible book, goodness gracious me.

Ramon Saizarbitoria is one of the world’s greatest living writers. His novel Martutene is one of the defining experiences of my life. I can’t find words to explain what that book means to me.

There was no chance I was going to enjoy Miren and Romanticism, though. It’s what they call a “young adult” novel, and it’s definitely not meant for middle-aged literary critics like myself. Even as a young adult I would have despised it. But we were a cynical generation. Who knows, today’s 17-year-olds in the prosperous Basque Country might just be retarded slow innocent enough to take this kind of book seriously.

Let me explain. Miren is a 17-year-old Basque girl who is in love with Said, a 17-year-old boy who’s a child of immigrants from Morocco. Said is so good, virtuous and perfect that’s he’s like the second coming of Jesus. But some people are racist. And that’s sad. You shouldn’t be racist. You should be anti-racist. Because racism is bad. Good people aren’t racist. And perfect people are like Said. The end.

The reason why a truly great writer wastes his time on this kind of crap is that Saizarbitoria pretty much founded the entire Basque literature. It exists now but only because he invented it. There’s no Basque YA novel, and somebody has got to create it. And when you are in a tiny literature in a really tiny language, there’s not many options as to who it will be.

I urgently need a great reading experience to eliminate the terrible aftertaste. And no, the book hasn’t been translated, and consider yourselves lucky you can’t read it.

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