The Life & Works of Jon Juarist

Jon Juaristi is a Spanish poet, novelist, essayist and translator who writes in both the Spanish language and the Basque language. Originally starting off as a Basque separatist when he was young, he has since changed his political viewpoint so much so that he is now a complete Spanish nationalist.

Jon Juaristi - Life

Jon Juaristi was born in the city of Bilbao in 1951 as the oldest of 7 children. His family was made up of middle class Basque nationalists. He studied in the San Nicolás school of Bilbao and then later, after a change of residence due to the work related motives of his father, he studied at the first Opus Dei school in Lejona, Vizcaya. At 11 years of age, Jon Juaristi began to study the Basque language for his own interest. However, as his parents didn't speak it, he decided to leave his family at the age of 13 to go and live with his paternal grandparents.

At the age of 16 he joined the Basque separatist group ETA, due to the influence of his cousin who formed part of a support unit for the organization, as well as after having read the book Vasconia: análisis dialéctico de una nacionalidad by Federico Krutwig.

As a teenager, during the latter years of the 1960s, Jon Juaristi participated in an emerging ETA, in which his most noteworthy action was to put ETA in contact with the Carlist circles who were against the Franco regime. By the time he was he in university, he was part of a minority and worker split from ETA, called ETA VI Asamblea. This group later fused with the Trotskyite Revolutionary Communist League in 1973.

Known to the police, Jon Juaristi decided to leave his hometown to go and study in Sevilla where he read Roman Philosophy, returning later to complete his doctorate in the University of Deusto. However he was expelled from the university for being a 'troublemaker' in 1972, but was allowed to return a year later. During this period, Juaristi spent a considerable amount of time in prison.

In 1974 he left the Revolutionary Communist League and his extreme left ideology, moving away almost completely from political activities. He began his professional life as a teacher at a Basque language primary school, and then later as a Spanish school teacher.

In 1980, he joined the Spanish Communist Party at the time when it was in the unification process with Euskadiko Ezkerra, giving rise to a new social-democratic group that actively rejected violence. However, 6 years later, Jon Juaristi abandoned the party, joining the socialist party, PSOE, in 1987 instead.

Jon Juaristi - Works

The poetry written by Jon Juaristi was heavily influenced by the work of the Basque poet and good friend to Juaristi, Gabriel Aresti, as well as the Spanish language work of the Basque writers, Miguel de Unamuno and Blas de Otero. He also picked up the irony of the Anglo-American poet and essayist, Wystan H.Auden.

His poetry particularly developed when he was part of the vanguard literary group called Pott from 1978 to 1983, alongside other writers such as Bernardo Atxaga, Joseba Sarrionandia and Ruper Ordorika.

Juaristi mainly wrote in the style of poetry that was later called poesía de la experiencia or Nueva sentimentalidad, although it has to be said that he was one of the movement's more individualist writers. He often writes about the era of Bilbao that he experienced during his childhood and youth. His poems can often end up having a bitter, disenchanted yet urban and intelligent tone.

In terms of his poetic form, intertextuality, irony, prose, daily life, and word games and puns, are recurring features in Jon Juaristi's poetry. He often alternates the classic strophes with free verse, always in search of a conversational and uneven style.

Among some of the poetry collections that Jon Juaristi has written, we can find Diario de un poeta recién cansado (1986), Arte de marear (1988), Los paisajes domésticos (1992), Mediodía (1993), Tiempo desapacible (1996), and Viento sobre las lóbregas colinas (2008).

Jon Juaristi also writes a large amount of other works in different genres including essays and novels. In recognition of his various contributions to the world of Spanish poetry and literature, Juaristi has received a number of prizes including the Premio Nacional de Literatura in 1988, the Premio Nacional de Ensayo in 1988, and the Premio Azorín de Novela in 2007.

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