04/26/2019 00:35 Updated 4/26/2013 12:56 AM
Fernando Aramburu, writer, author of ‘Patria’.
I am 60 years old: now I know that time is limited. I was born in San Sebastian, but I went as a young to Germany because of a woman and because everything good came from outside. I’m still there: married and with two daughters. In Spain, politics determines our lives too much, when there are other spaces, such as culture, to live through them.
Nobody said let’s dance “Life is not what we thought, but since we’re here, let’s dance”. The quotation is attributed to Aramburu in the social networks and even in some walls, but it is enough to read some of his aphorisms to verify that this is not his. He tells it resigned (Churchill would have needed 50 lives to say half of what is attributed to him) in the Circle of the Liceu, where Luis Lopez de Lamadrid has presented him, properly quoting the verses of Autorretrato sin mí. And the after-dinner flies after Aramburu has defined time as “a handful of sand you try to contain by clenching your fist; but the more you squeeze it, the faster it slips between your fingers”.
Why didn’t you become an ETA member?
Opting for violence is not a decision that one takes individually… You didn’t take it; others did. But the fact that there was an organization recruiting young people like me to commit violence in the name of the country forced me to opt: do I take the arms and kill or not? -Some friends of mine did sign up for ETA.
Why didn’t you?
What we call ideology is all induced. We are not born pro-independence; nor Spaniards. We are born with a blank mind and, from the first day, adults write on it their language, religion, politics. Resisting is very difficult and more so when there is a great social pressure in small towns. But, in the end, it was a personal decision. A personal decision that a kid had to take in the ETA era; but not a Norwegian kid fishing in his fjord or an Italian kid sunbathing, because nobody forced them to ask themselves that question.
Who is responsible, then?
Our leaders have an enormous responsibility for the messages they transmit and are responsible for the violence when their messages are not calm and subject us to the binary fracture of “either you take it or leave it: or either you are loyal to your people or traitor”.
So much guilt only on their side?
Yes, because that distortion caused young people who had had a peaceful life taking up arms, which were already ready and prepared. That is what I have seen. And I do not accept it.
Which words lead us to violence?
No word or idea authorizes anyone to be violent. For me the important thing is every human being with his face and her name, not an idea or any conviction.
But you say there are lethal ones.
There are. I do not think that anyone dies for the equality of women or for universal suffrage, or for education for all… However, there are other ideas that do warm the blood of young people.
For example. I have never liked the idea of a nation. That ideology that divides the planet and people in nations is arbitrary…
But we are also our origin.
Because we are afraid to stay undefined, without content. And the fact is that no human being is capable of defining herself only with respect to himself. We seek to complete ourselves in the collective.
Does that make us national beings?
Even knowing that we die, we prefer to think that what we have been will live on in the next generation; it will speak our language and will be our same nation…
Cannot you have one without offending?
I do not speak of my own, but of the nationalist impulses that arise from the desire to perpetuate over all others what defines me.
Who loses the origin does not lose the identity?
That is different from nationalism, which is not the natural love of one’s own, but imposing your nation to create a geographical space where only the pure, authentic like you can fit: it is that exclusive and eternal nation the nationalist dreams for himself and her relatives.
What if your nation is inclusive?
The nationalism is not, because it is nourished by that illusion of eternity: if you meet a series of rules, you project yourself into the beyond. And they comply, because the human being cannot be calm if he does not believe that he is eternal, that he will transcend their end.
If he’s happy like that, without bothering anyone…
The fact is that he needs to verify that there are also others with their same faith and that they are together, strong, with a mission in life… And others who do not.
Is writing not another illusion of eternity?
Not for me. I do not write to perpetuate myself in anyone’s memory but to give thanks to those who wrote and make me better by reading them.
Can you summarize it with an aphorism?
… Buf! The computer dries me out of aphorisms. Come on: you are the author of some very fortunate. Life, while it lasts, is eternal.
And another one as of today? Have you seen the latest political campaign debates?
I’m afraid yes. And I miss the education of the German debates: there nobody is insulted like here, where they do not try to convince the voter, but ridicule the adversary and crush him with narcissistic sufficiency. It is more comfortable to enjoy politics as a show than to analyze it as management. In addition, everything can be explained from angles that are not political. Today politics determines our country too much.
What should replace so much politics?
I have great confidence in culture because it civilizes the human being. And it has given rise to democratic societies, still imperfect, but already incompatible with violence.
And how about that other aphorism I asked for?
The opposite of a punch with the left arm is not another with the right one, but a hug.
Do you practice it?
If another person thinks differently, I do not have to destroy her. If I am sure you are wrong, I must help you getting out of the error. Martin Luther King said that he should help racists to free themselves from the racism which enslaved them and made them miserable.
Has the Basque Country made progress?
It is making a commendable effort to recompose itself after having been a totally fractured society.