Cover image for Homeland / Fernando Aramburu ; translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam.
Homeland / Fernando Aramburu ; translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam.
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Pantheon Books, [2019]
Physical Description:
vii, 590 pages ; 25 cm
Here is the story of two families in small-town Basque country, pitted against each other by the ideology and violence of the terrorist group ETA (Basque Homeland and Liberty), from the unrelentingly grim 1980s to October 2011 when the group proclaimed an end to its savage insurgency. Erstwhile lifetime friends--especially the generation of parents on both sides--the two families become bitter enemies when a father of one is killed by ETA militants, among them one of the sons of the other family. Told through a succession of more than one hundred short sections devoted to a rich multiplicity of characters whose role in the story becomes clear as one reads. Homeland brilliantly unfolds in nonlinear fashion as it traces the consequences for the families of both the murder victim and the perpetrator. Aramburu alludes only obliquely to a historical matrix even as he focuses on the psychological complexity of his characters while building nearly unbearable narrative tension.
Corporate Subject:

On Order



Fernando Aramburu's internationally acclaimed novel evokes an unresolved history of violence, giving a fictional account of lives shattered by Basque terrorism even as it rekindles debate about truth and reconciliation.

Lifetime friends become bitter enemies when the father of one family is killed by militants--one of whom is a son from the other family. Told in short sections highlighting a rich multiplicity of characters from all walks of life, Homeland brilliantly unfolds in nonlinear fashion as it traces the moral dilemmas faced by the families of murder victim and perpetrator alike. Aramburu alludes only obliquely to the historical context while he focuses on the psychological complexity of his characters and builds nearly unbearable suspense.

Author Notes

Born in San Sebastián, Spain, in 1959, FERNANDO ARAMBURU is considered one of the most remarkable writers in the Spanish language. He won the Ramón Gómez de la Serna Prize in 1997, the Euskadi Prize in 2001, and, for his short story collection Los peces de la amargura, the Mario Vargas Llosa NH Short Story Award, the Dulce Chacón Prize, and the Prize of the Spanish Roal Academy in 2008. Among his most recent novels, Años lentos won the Premio Tusquets de Novela in 2011 and was named Book of the Year in 2012 by the booksellers of Madrid. But it is his novel Patria (Homeland), a stunning success among readers and winner of unanimous acclaim (National Prize for Literature, National Critics Prize, Euskadi Prize, Francisco Umbral Prize, Strega European Prize, Tomasi di Lampedusa Prize, among many others) that has distinguished him as a writer who will leave his mark on our era.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

With a single broadcast in 2011, the ETA Basque separatist group abandoned its campaign for an independent Basque homeland, ending more than 50 years of armed conflict with the Spanish government. Its legacy-wounded families and broken communities-is the heart of Aramburu's magnificent novel, his first to be translated into English. The ceasefire allows Bittori, an elderly widow whose husband was assassinated by an ETA gunman, to return to her provincial village, setting off a reckoning with her childhood best friend Miren, a fervent nationalist who distanced herself from Bittori after her eldest son joined the ETA. Bittori is welcomed back by Miren's daughter, Aranxta, who sets out to find them a measure of peace. Aramburu spends decades with the families as the conflict contorts their lives. The cast is sprawling-with both matriarchs, husbands, five children, spouses, grandchildren-but each's story is realized masterfully, as the characters look to escape violence however they can, be it exile, alcohol, or love. Aramburu's remarkable novel is an honest and empathetic portrait of suffering and forgiveness, home and family. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

"HOMELAND" IS THE STORY of two families in a Basque village. It toggles back and forth in time, illuminating the enmity between members of multiple generations and hinting at a once and future closeness. Although it hinges on a particular ekintza, or attack, by members of the paramilitary organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), its true protagonists are the matriarchs of these families, spiteful Miren and grief-stricken Bittori, as well as their daughters, Arantxa and Nerea. It is these women who make things happen. The men who kill and are killed are mere "jellyfish" in the wash of history. Fernando Aramburu's gift lies in the links between action and reaction: the moment Bittori understands she's been snubbed on purpose at the village butcher's when her husband has been marked as an ETA target, or the aftermath of the argument between Miren and Arantxa about the nature of the violence, when Miren's husband, "staggering with sorrow, tried to stop his daughter and his grandchildren" from leaving the house (to no avail, as the mother and daughter won't speak to each other for five years). What he doesn't get into is cause and effect. And while the book overflows with tight, cinematic scenes, it remains static, almost dull. It reads like a long catalog of victimhood, sparing none of its characters. Glimpses into the origins of their friendships, or the nature of their filial piety or their love, are few and far between. The question of Basque nationhood dominates every other question. Yet the novel also does not delve into the meaning of the nation, the history of Spain or the slide of the liberation movement into violent struggle and outright terrorism, preferring to hover over a few ordinary thugs whose adolescent impulses are channeled into the ekintza that shatters the bond between Miren and Bittori. "Homeland" oscillates between a telenovela without intrigue and Dostoyevsky without moral inquiry. Arantxa suffers a stroke that leaves her incapacitated, and is deserted by her philandering husband (a teleno vela standard); Nerea and her brother debate how to mourn their murdered father, never coming to any understanding of each other or themselves. No one feels too strongly. Aramburu has enjoyed a successful career in Spanish, publishing a number of novels, short stories and a children's book before arriving at "Homeland." The translation is by Alfred MacAdam, a man with a similarly distinguished career. In many ways, the two are a good match. While translators cannot turn bad books into great ones, they can make good books mediocre. Here, the lackluster prose, while much clumsier and more confusing than the original Spanish, suits the desultory social landscape it describes. Near the end of the novel, Nerea's brother, Xabier, attends a meeting of the Victims of Terrorism in Basque Country Collective in San Sebastián. An unnamed writer gives a hopeful description of his latest literary project, and Xabier's reaction seems to contain both the reason for "Homeland"'s existence and the reason it doesn't really work: "The writer spoke calmly. Xabier thinks his intentions are good, but he does not believe anything will substantially change because someone's written a book. It seems to him that, until now, Basque writers have paid little attention to the victims of terrorism. The victimizers are far more interesting - their crises of conscience, their sentimental back stories and things like that. " Maybe, as a Basque writer, Aramburu hopes to remedy this dearth of attention to the victims of ETA. But "Homeland" is indeed less interesting than it could have been with more balance and more motion in any direction, more "things like that." JENNIFER croft is a writer and translator. Her novel, "Homesick " will be published in September.

Library Journal Review

A Basque-born novelist now living in Germany, Aramburu unfolds the consequences of the Basque insurgency while asking us to ponder larger issues of violence, friendship, and moral choice. When Bittori returns to the hometown where her husband was killed, people avoid her, fearing that she means to stir up trouble. Generous Txato was accused in graffiti of snitching on the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, the Basque Homeland and Liberty), and the killers included the son of Bittori's sister-close friend, Miren. The narrative travels through decades, shifting between the families' past and present relationship, Bittori's suffering, defensive Miren's decision to support her radical son, and the tragedy of Miren's daughter, felled by a stroke in her forties and a bridge between the families. VERDICT Punch-in-the-face powerful with a bittersweet ending; this leading Spanish novelist's first English-language outing is a masterpiece. [See Prepub Alert, 9/24/18.] © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1. HIGH HEELS ON PARQUET     Poor thing, there she goes: about to crash into him the way a wave crashes into rocks. A little foam and goodbye. Doesn't she realize he doesn't even bother to open the door for her? His slave and more than his slave.   And those heels, those red lips when she's already forty-five years old: what for? With your standing, girl, with your position and education, what would make you carry on like a teenager? If  aita  were here to see . . .    Getting into the car, Nerea glanced up at the window where she assumed her mother would, as usual, be spying on her through the curtain. Even if she couldn't see her from the street, she knew Bittori was staring at her, whispering to herself, there goes the poor thing, a trophy for that egoist who never thought for a second about making someone happy. Doesn't she realize that a woman must be really desperate if she has to seduce her husband after twelve years of marriage? It's a good thing they never had children.   Nerea waved goodbye before getting into the taxi. Her mother, on the fourth floor, hidden behind the curtain, looked away. Beyond the tiled roofs was a wide strip of ocean, the lighthouse on Santa Clara Island, tenuous clouds in the distance. The weather lady pre­dicted sunshine. And her mother looked again toward the street and the taxi, which was now out of sight.   She stared beyond the roof tiles, beyond the island and the blue horizon line, beyond the remote clouds, and even beyond that into the past forever lost, searching for scenes from her daughter's wedding. And she saw Nerea once again in the Good Shepherd Cathedral, dressed in white, with her bouquet and her excessive happiness. Watching her daughter leave--so slim, such a smile, so pretty--Bittori felt a premonition come over her. At night, when she went back to her house alone, she was on the verge of confess­ing her fears to her photograph of Txato. But she had a headache, and besides, when it came to family matters, especially his daughter, Txato was sentimental. Tears came easily to his eyes, and even though photos don't cry, I know what I'm talking about.   The high heels were supposed to make Quique voracious.  Click, click, click --she'd dented the parquet. Let's see if she punches holes in it. To keep peace in the house, she didn't scold her. They were only going to be there for a minute. They'd come to say goodbye. And him, it was nine o'clock in the morning and his breath stank of whiskey or of one of those drinks he sold.   " Ama , are you sure you're going to be okay by yourself?"   "Why don't you take the bus to the airport? The taxi from here to Bilbao is going to cost a fortune."   He: "Don't worry about that."   He pointed out they had baggage, that the bus would be uncom­fortable, slow.   "Right, but you have enough time, don't you?"   " Ama , don't make a big deal out of it. We decided to take a taxi. It's the easiest way to get there."   Quique was beginning to lose patience. "It's the only comfort­able way to get there."   He added that he was going to step outside to smoke a cigarette--"while you two talk." That man reeked of perfume. But his mouth stank of liquor, and it was only nine in the morning. He said good­bye checking his face in the living-room mirror. Conceited ass. And then--was he being authoritarian, cordial but curt?--to Nerea: "Don't take too long."   Five minutes, she promised. Which turned into fifteen. Alone, she said to her mother that this trip to London meant a lot to her.   "I just don't see what you have to do with your husband's clients. Or is it that you've started working in his business without telling me?"   "In London I'm going to make a serious attempt to save our marriage."   "Another?"    "The last one."   "So what's the plan this time? Going to stay close to him so he doesn't take off with the first woman he sees?"   " Ama , please. Don't make it harder for me."   "You look great. Going to a new hairdresser?"   "I still go to the same one."   Nerea suddenly lowered her voice. As soon as she started whis­pering, her mother turned to look toward the front door, as if she were afraid some stranger was spying on her. No, nothing. They'd given up on the idea of adopting a baby. How they had talked about it! Maybe a Chinese baby, a Russian, a little black one. Boy or girl. Nerea still held on to her illusion, but Quique had given up. He wants his own child, flesh of his flesh.   Bittori: "So he's quoting the Bible now?"   "He thinks he's up-to-date, but he's more traditional than rice pudding."   On her own, Nerea had investigated all the legal formalities involved in adoption and, yes, they satisfied all of them. The money involved was no problem. She was willing to travel to the other end of the world to be a mother. But Quique had cut off the conversa­tion. No, no, and more no.   "That boy's a bit lacking in sensitivity, don't you think?"   "He wants a little boy of his own, who looks like him, who will play for La Real some day. He's obsessed,  ama . And he'll get what he wants. Wow! When he digs in on something! I don't know with what woman. Some volunteer. Don't ask me. I don't have the slight­est idea. He'll rent out some womb, pay whatever you have to pay. As far as I'm concerned, I'd help him find a healthy woman who'd make his wish come true."   "You're nuts."   "I haven't told him yet, but I imagine I might get a chance in London. I've thought it through. I don't have any right to make him be unhappy."   They touched cheeks by the front door.   Bittori: okay, she'd be fine on her own, have a great trip. Nerea, out in the hall as she waited for the elevator, said something about bad luck but that we should never give up happiness. Then she suggested her mother change the doormat. Excerpted from Homeland: A Novel by Fernando Aramburu All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.