Martutene is the eighth novel by Basque writer Ramon Saizarbitoria...creates, in his winding exploration of contemporary Basque society, a novel as large as the stately old mansion at its center, with room enough to house his wide-ranging intellectual interests: Literature, music, painting, medical ethics and sociology, history, and translation ...an incredible opportunity to understand Basque identity and culture on a deeper level, from the perspective of some of its insiders, with a gorgeous level of nuance...legacy of the Spanish Civil War and of ETA reverberate throughout the book in the most fascinating ways, perhaps even more so for an outsider who couldn’t hope to imagine the myriad emotional and psychological consequences of so much violence...its eight hundred pages, the rich and even exciting plotlines feel as if they unfold slowly, surrounded as they are by so much other material, but that is also one of the book’s pleasures and surely why others are predicting it will be a classic.
Invoking a mystique of the real in the tradition of Another Country, L’Éducation sentimentale, and Ulysses, Ramon Saizarbitoria has written a contemporary novel of ideas depicting everyday life in the Basque Country ...a constellation of relationships takes shape among a cluster of persons residing in the Martutene district of Do-nostia (San Sebastián)...couples at the center of the book personify contrasting sides of human nature — Martin and Julia represent the artistic, Abaitua and Pilar the scientific — at the confluence of multiple currents of Basque life: culture, love, politics, law, religion, government, medicine, business, economics, history, geography, and language meet in the two relationships as they change over Martutene’s eight hundred pages ... The people of Martutene become as real to us as their stories are to them ...translator Aritz Branton performs a valuable service by providing broader access to an essential work of Basque literature.
A grand and audacious novel, Martutene is just over 800 pages and presents a nuanced perspective of the contemporary Basque experience. History, politics, language, and culture ripple through the characters’ daily interactions. Saizarbitoria dramatizes the best and worst of the contemporary Basque experience — national pride and cultural intolerance, as well as gastronomy and terrorism ... Set in Martutene, a neighborhood in the city of Donostia (San Sebastián), the book centers on two couples struggling to maintain their relationships ...use of parallelism, repetition, and commentary creates a sense of self-awareness within the reader that the text is indirectly commenting on itself ...embedded stories are structured in a way that allows for the manifestations of themes ...relies heavily on narration and the omniscient third-person point of view ... Martutene is very much about beliefs, perceptions, feelings, memories, and the associations of its characters.