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“The father’s house”, by Karmele Jaio, novel dedicated to all new men

“Shooting in Mt. You hear them again from up there, at the top ”

“The Father’s House” reveals the writer Karmele Jaio, in a novel that tells us about the ways to build and transmit masculinity and the enormous influence of gender in the lives of women and men.

In “The Father’s House” I have tried to show the characters’ attic, their hidden dreams and, above all, their unspoken words. Those lead words, which appear only when the tide goes out, when the rocks hidden under the water are visible, as the novel itself says:

“Maybe that’s why writing is dangerous. It is a dangerous low tide that exposes the rocks hidden under the water. And what appears we do not always like. Because at low tide the words that we use when we are afloat disappear, those that survive like a mat on the surface; and those others appear, those that weigh like lead, those that are at the bottom and are only seen at low tide. And next to those words are plastics, tetrabriks, rusty Coca-Cola cans, a shotgun shell, a panty liner swollen like the body of a drowned man. What appears when we write we do not always like ”.

Karmele Jaio’s is a deep and well-plotted novel that invites a necessary reflection, both for men and women. Among other things, because it speaks of the social and cultural construction of masculinity or the rigid gender roles that we all inherit and that limit our freedom to choose how we want to be. And it also reveals that gender violence often does not require blows to impose itself, that it can subtly coexist with us, flowing silently like an underground river under the tiles of our kitchen or the parquet of our dining room, and conditioning our lives.

Jaio manages to put his finger on the wound with a subtle and intelligent novel, without Manichaeisms or simplifications, that flees from generalizations and gives food for thought. The characters of the Basque writer are complex and contradictory, and the underlying conflict does not allow for an unthinking side-taking to one side or the other.


Through agile short chapters, the narrator alternates three opposing and complementary points of view. The story told through the eyes of the blocked writer Ismael and his sister Libe, a militant feminist. Both stories told with a suggestive second person who in turn directly addresses the reader. And among them, Jasone’s voice prevails, in the first person: the writer’s own voice, postponed or relegated by her condition of wife, mother and daughter, who, overcoming gender barriers, finally finds herself.

The best book in Basque! Karmele Jaio, author of “La casa del padre”, wins the 111 Akademia Award 2019
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Best Book In Basque

The 111 Academy will present the 111 Akademia Award for 2019 to Karmele Jaio. The original edition in Basque of La casa del padre has been chosen by the academics as their favorite book of 2019. The Academy currently has 201 members, of which 114 have participated in the three voting rounds held between January and April of 2020 to designate the winner in 2019. In all rounds, Jaio’s novel has been the most voted, and Bernardo Atxaga’s novel, “Etxeak eta hilobiak”, has been the finalist of the last round along with Jaio’s .

Right now, the people responsible for the 111 Akademia are analyzing the details of the awards ceremony.

Awarded for the second time

This 2019 is not the first prize of the 111 Akademia that Karmele Jaio receives. Let us remember that in 2006 the writer from Gasteiz also received this award for the novel “Amaren eskuak”. Thus, Karmele Jaio has joined the group of writers who have twice received the 111 Akademia Award, being the only woman in the group. Ur Apalategi, Anjel Lertxundi, Ramon Saizarbitoria and Harkaitz Cano are the writers who, together with Jaio, have won this award twice.

The 111th Akademia Award is only one edition short of a quarter century. It is an award in which readers choose and award. Born from the Manuel Larramendi Cultural Foundation in 1996, the aim of this literary mention is to give voice and prominence to Basque readers in the Plaza de la Literatura.

Press Kit

“A book in which everything works, dazzling the clean cut of his intelligence.” Carlos Zanón, Babelia

“Karmele Jaio’s novel masterfully condenses the complexity of the present moment.” Najat El Hachmi, The Newspaper

“An admirable work, as moving as it is profound.” Javier Rojo, The Courier

The father’s house reveals the writer Karmele Jaio, in a novel that tells us about the ways to build and transmit masculinity and the enormous influence of gender in the lives of women and men.

«Looking in the mirror you have had another vision: in addition to seeing yourself and your father, you have seemed to see other men behind in the reflection. They all have your father’s face. They could be your grandfather, your great-grandfather. “

One of the most powerful voices on the Basque literary scene

Author’s Note

In “The Father’s House” I have tried to show the characters’ attic, their hidden dreams and, above all, their unspoken words. Those lead words, which appear only when the tide goes out, when the rocks hidden under the water are visible, as the novel itself says:
“Maybe that’s why writing is dangerous. It is a dangerous low tide that exposes the rocks hidden under the water. And what appears we do not always like. Because at low tide the words that we use when we are afloat disappear, those that survive like a mat on the surface; and those others appear, those that weigh like lead, those that are at the bottom and are only seen at low tide. And next to those words are plastics, tetrabriks, rusty Coca-Cola cans, a shotgun shell, a panty liner swollen like the body of a drowned man. What appears when we write we do not always like ”.

The Novel

Karmele Jaio’s is a deep and well-plotted novel that invites a necessary reflection, both for men and women. Among other things, because it speaks of the social and cultural construction of masculinity or the rigid gender roles that we all inherit and that limit our freedom to choose how we want to be. And it also reveals that gender violence often does not require blows to impose itself, that it can subtly coexist with us, flowing silently like an underground river under the tiles of our kitchen or the parquet of our dining room, and conditioning our lives.

Jaio manages to put his finger on the wound with a subtle and intelligent novel, without Manichaeisms or simplifications, which avoids generalizations and gives food for thought. The characters of the Basque writer are complex and contradictory, and the underlying conflict does not allow for an unthinking side-taking to one side or the other.

Through agile short chapters, the narrator alternates three opposing and complementary points of view. The story told through the eyes of the blocked writer Ismael and his sister Libe, a militant feminist. Both stories told with a suggestive second person who in turn directly addresses the reader. And among them, Jasone’s voice is imposed, in the first person: the voice of the writer, postponed or relegated by her condition of wife, mother and daughter, who, overcoming gender barriers, finally finds herself.

«–If you give up, we all take a step back –he warned me seriously, as if he were suddenly speaking on behalf of all the women in the world. As if speaking through a megaphone to a square full of women. It is your work, it is your voice. They can’t steal it from you. “

The History

«The window from which you have looked at the world in recent years. On the other side of that window is your computer, your cup of dry coffee on the desk, your fears, your posters, your clips, your sneakers by the chair, your nightmares, your books, your notebook, your world. There is your novel, the one you have been trying to write for two years. There is your secret. A novel that does not advance, a drought of ideas, a writer’s block of the book. Never better said. Another commonplace.

Ismael Alberdi is in dry dock, he has been completely blocked for two years before the blank page. The deadlines for his next novel are running out and the Basque-language writer, who had some success in the past, is unable to narrate anything that does not sound false or fake. Maybe the nightmares that have visited you lately have something to do with it. Or maybe the cases of gender violence that the news shows are to blame for everything. A gang rape of a young woman in Pamplona and a girl who has been found murdered in the mountains. The victims are almost the same age as their daughters, Eider and Maialen, and Ismael is not only distraught, but feels strange guilt, as if partly responsible for these crimes.

«A subway car has passed under our house, a meter of conflicting emotions, potholes and sharp curves, a noisy subway, and Ismael has not noticed anything, he has not felt the slightest tremor locked in his bunker. »

Meanwhile his wife, Jasone, Ismael’s first reader and the one who corrects and improves his texts, finds himself after many years with his postponed vocation. Jasone wrote stories in her college days, but then she had to quit, first to raise her daughters and then to care for her parents who died after long years of dependency. Now her daughters have grown up and, although she works full-time as a librarian, she still has the energy and desire to stay up late in front of her computer. Out of nowhere, the first-person account of his own rape, an imagined rape, has emerged, and with that catharsis of old fears a powerful novel secretly makes its way.

«Describing my rape was my return to telling stories, my return to the time when I wrote stories. So I was eager to finish a story to show it to Jauregui and publish it in the magazine, or to Libe, my best friend and my most enthusiastic reader. But this time I didn’t teach anyone anything. And less to Ismael. I didn’t dare tell my husband that I had written again. “

But if Jasone hides her regained talent, Ishmael also keeps her block a secret. A blockage crossed by old cowardice that refers to a confusing childhood episode, which perhaps the writer has not yet been able to overcome. A scene condensed in four words: “Shots in the bush” of a story stagnant there that does not advance. Perhaps what blocks the writer responds to the same thing that distressed him in the past. The boy who fears that he will not measure up to what is expected of him becomes the man who is horrified by not living up to the role he has been assigned.

And you realize that, before your mother, you are still a child. The mask of an intellectual or a professional writer falls off. These bare. In front of your mother, all your weaknesses appear, your fears, the same ones that you have never been taught to accept or recognize or show. Your selfishness also appears. The one that makes you mad at her. Perhaps the one that is your true voice appears, the one that you have been struggling to find when you write in recent years, that of that child who hides under the voice of man. That of a child who is afraid, like your father. Perhaps you are not so different. “

All this is turned upside down when Ismael’s mother suffers a domestic accident and is hospitalized. The writer must return to the paternal home to take care of that severe and authoritarian father who now, without his submissive wife, is afraid of being left alone. And so does his older sister Libe, the rebel of the family, who returns from Berlin. A woman of character, a political exile from the Basque conflict and an NGO activist, Libe is the photographic reverse of her great friend and sister-in-law Jasone. But perhaps she faces the same inertia and social structures as the talented writer in the shadow of her husband, because Libe has never yet allowed her partner Kristin to accompany her to see her family in Vitoria.

Characters


Ishmael. He always envied his cousin Aitor, his marksmanship when they went hunting with his father, his bravery or even his political militancy in the Basque conflict. But she could never be like him, and maybe that’s why she can’t write now. Nor will he be able to do so until he frees that boy who was locked in his room in his father’s house.

Jasone. She has never suffered a rape, but when she narrates that violence suffered in the first person, she discovers a hidden truth in that voice, her own. It may be that postponing your literary vocation because of motherhood, marriage or caring for the elderly is also a form of acceptance or resignation to other types of violence.

Libe. Committed to the refugee cause, she works for an NGO in Berlin. A convinced feminist and defender of her militant lesbianism, no one can bend her. Not even the Civil Guard could with her in the past, when they kept her incommunicado for five days. However, he still does not dare to introduce his father to his partner or to live in that conservative society from which he fled.

Jauregui. Jasone’s old friend from college days is now a wise and competent editor who is eagerly awaiting Ismael’s new novel. She recognizes the work of her friend behind the author’s texts, and even wants to sign her up as a contributor to his editorial. However, his macho prejudices prevent him from recognizing literary talent when it is in front of his eyes.

The father. Hunting lover, Ducado smoker, and life-long factory worker. His word was always law and he never lifted a plate from the table. But the security and certainty of the father of the family may not be such, because he discovers, when his wife is hospitalized, that he is as vulnerable as anyone and that he is terrified of being left alone.

Mother. He never accepted help from anyone. Cooking, washing the house, raising the children, she always managed everything. And no complaint was ever allowed. At most, a few tears, like when the pesetas patiently saved in a cookie tin went to a new hunting gun and not the coat I needed. Even from a hospital bed she has only one concern, who takes care of her husband?