‘Once on-board, the eulogy is worth hearing’ – Bilbao New York Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe

bnybBilbao New York Bilbao is an almost real/not-quite-fiction meditation on connections, or rather disconnections. It’s about loss: the diminution of relationships through distance, be that geographical, physical or emotional; and loss over time, through the passing of years.

Indeed a melancholy pall hangs over the author’s words, as he pieces together the tattered map of his lineage. But the mood is sombre and reflective, rather than depressing – if the reader picks this up at the right moment in their own lives, it’ll more likely strike a chord.

What was also enjoyable, from the perspective of a Briton, was to be taken somewhere foreign: the author succeeds in making the Basque country, at the turn of the last century, come to life. However, whilst the author is reaching for the existential nausea of classic European literature, he doesn’t quite get there. The story, the journey of the book is very personal, however for readers unfamiliar with the Basque country of that era, with Spain, with even Europe, they will likely need orientating. And that’s left wanting. There are too many threads, and many of them nascent – no singular thought or idea is developed long enough to allow the reader to settle. This is then compounded by a veritable army of supporting and fleeting characters: at a prosaic level, there are just too many names for the reader – the foreign reader – to keep in reference.

Any Cop?: For lovers of art, especially the history of art, this work could be a treasure trove. Moreover, there is something of a parable in here – a lesson, a sadness that haunts many in an age of migration. However, to use the analogy of the fishermen that are key to this story, the author fails to throw the reader a line.  And that’s a real shame, as once on-board, the eulogy is worth hearing.

Tamim Sadikali


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