Friday, December 8, 2023, 01:00
In the absence of one, the writer Mariasun Landa will have two new books on display at the Durango Azokan Erein publishing house these days: ‘Elefante chori-bihotza’ and ‘Ezin ezetz esan’. Also, this November marks 20 years since the work ‘Crocodile under the bed’ won the Spanish National Award for Children and Youth Literature.
– 20 years have passed since the book ‘Crocodile under the bed’ won the Spanish National Prize for Children’s and Youth Literature. When you wrote it, did you expect the work to have such a trajectory?
– In such cases, since I was the first, you don’t know what it means. The situation in our town was very sad at that time, sad, with the closing of the Egunkaria and the politically petrified atmosphere. When I received the award, many people told me that it was almost the only good news. It was crazy, but a great moment. It has come a long way with many publications and many translations: into Slovenian, Russian, Spanish, Catalan, Galician… I remember with special fondness the trip to the Moscow fair with the publisher. It was very interesting to contact the locals.
– Do you think you opened the way?
– Now that Patxi Zubizarreta has won the National Award for the narrative ‘Zerria’, and a few years ago Juan Kruz Igerabide with the book ‘Abezedario Titirijario’, it gave me great joy, because I think that ‘Kokodriloak’ has made a path and has continued, that our situation is normalizing. Basque literature has often not been considered too much and some roads have had to be opened to allow others to pass behind.
– It is easier to say what the book has not achieved than to start listing what it has achieved.
– Well, I’ll tell you what. By the time I was published, I was already somewhat well-known here, in our country, and I was successful, for example with the work ‘Suicide Socks’ (Elkarlanean, 2001) and abroad, especially with the book ‘Elefante chori-vihotza’ (Anaya, 2001). It was then published in four languages and was widely distributed and sold in Spanish, as well as being translated into many other languages.
– Now it has been published again in Basque by Erein publishing house.
– Yes, unfortunately it was not that successful in the Basque-speaking world. At the time of its publication, it was a publishing house in Madrid and it did not care too much about the Basque branch. But he gave a great performance in Spanish and it still continues in schools, because it is deep and beautiful. But perhaps ‘Crocodile under the bed’ has been a bridge to adult literature.
– If someone does not know the book, how would you explain what the subject is?
– Now a lot is mentioned about the mental health of young people and it is dealt with in this book in some way. In a humorous and parodic record, the evolution of a depression is told. In the parody, but antidepressants, anxiolytics are mentioned and this situation is pure today. In this respect, I have been talking about it in many places, but not from the point of view of children’s literature, but dealing with serious matters such as depression in a humorous and parodic form.
– As you said, the book also helped you to get to know some corners of the world.
– When I was in Moscow, they saw this aspect and said that it was very well known that depression also occurs during adolescence. They opened up another powerful perspective for me and now it has become a highly recommended book from a mental health perspective.
– The pandemic has put several issues in the center, too.
– I started from my personal experience, but nowadays after the pandemic, mental health is mentioned a lot, even in adolescence and youth, it seems that it should not exist there but it is not true. Looking the other way will not solve the problem. This happens to the protagonist, he has some symptoms, which are funny to the reader but basically nothing funny, and he doesn’t know how to name them. And finally my message was that literature gives you the words to say what is happening to you, so at the end of the narrative it is able to express what it lacks, how much it loves or what it needs to do. This good of literature is almost therapeutic, that it serves us to name what we have inside.
– Seeing and internalizing examples through fiction is easier for young people than reading theory, isn’t it?
– I can tell you that many adults have read that book and some therapists have recommended it. In a very friendly and smiling way, you can see what depression or anxiety is.
– Even if it is classified as children’s and young people’s literature, it is a sign that they have enjoyed the different layers of the book.
– And more people should use it and enjoy it (laughter). The tyranny of shelves and our need to classify books… For me, literature should not be labeled, when a literary work is good it is said that it is for 8 to 88 year olds and then everyone should find what they like. In many courses we have differentiated what is linguistic ability and what is literary ability, because you can have linguistic ability, but because you have read very little literature and do not know how to compare.
– In addition to the anniversary of the award-winning ‘Crocodile under the bed’, how did you take the reprints of the books ‘Elefante chori-bihotza’ and ‘I can’t say no’?
– I added another section to the first one with several things that happened to me at the back of the book and it’s worth reading again, because it has a lot of humor. With the ‘Elephant’ I completely figured it out, because everyone is the same on the outside but not on the inside, and the outcast in the group has the heart of a bird and the others have the heart of a tiger or a monkey. It turned out very nice and useful for use in education and I would say that it is a very current topic.
I wrote the last one in 1991, then under the title ‘Potx’, and a student who is working on my work told me that he couldn’t find it because it was uncatalogued. I gave it a re-read and it seemed very legitimate to reprint it again. It is a myth that knowing how to say no is very important to practice, both in one’s life and socially. It was nice to post again. I have barely touched it, because I have changed subjects, but there are always some essentials in me.
And what would those key issues be?
– On the one hand, I think, the use of humor as self-defense. I think that almost everything can be told in children’s literature, you have to see how to do it and how humor has a place and importance in that. On the other hand, the claim of modest, humble or marginalized characters. Looking at my books, the characters aren’t the heroes, they’re usually the ones left on the fringes. But in the end they help or save the group from this innocence.
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