470 Zenbakia 2009-01-23 / 2009-01-30


Idoya or The Basques in the XXI Century

MONREAL URZAY, Francisco Javier

“IDOYA” has been written as a trail-sequence of Navarro Villoslada’s 1879’s “AMAYA or The Basques in the VIII Century:”. The wordy “AMAYA” describes the adventures of local Navaresse Basques in the days of the invasion of Spain by the moors in 711, nearly overnight (facilitated according to popular word of the time by the Jews!). Through endless chapters AMAYA describes the local intrigues for power and control to stay independent from the Muslims, the Visigoths and the Franks with fights, ambushes -of Charlemagne’s Roland in Orreaga-Roncesvalles- sin and penance (with the miraculous intervention by St. Michael in Aralar) and with the love of Amaya for the first King of Navarre Garcia Ximenez. The presence of the beautiful Amaya -saved in the last second from falling over the edge of the escarpment “Dos Hermanas” into the Pass below by Irurzun while riding her horse, “desbocado” out of control- does not become apparent till the end of the novel... To my knowledge, “AMAYA” has not been translated into English, and besides the Harvard and National Libraries, I may have one of its very few copies in the US.

The main hero of the 12 month story in “IDOYA” is Xavier Mendiluce, a Basque physician born in Lecumberri, Navarre, next to the shrine of St. Michael in Excelsis. Idoya becomes an important character later in our present tale -as Amaya in “AMAYA”- as she falls in love with Xav and later marries him. Xav was raised very Catholic, had been gored in “the Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, and had trained with the Opus Dei in the University of Navarra, though through postgrad training in the UK and in the US he becomes agnostic. After a few such years in the US he establishes his medical practice as a neurologist in Donostia-San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa) where he gives occasional shelter to ETA activists running from the police. He thus becomes himself a wanted man and anti-basque bounty hunters are after him till, in July, he has to leave his practice, goes into hiding and escapes to the French-Basque side. Very sick with double pneumonia -later proven to be TB- he is taken to Geneva, Switzerland, where he is cared for by a wealthy Basque family (the Gilles, formerly “Echalar”) who also change his name to Dr. Xav Mentile. The Gilles, who also used to help Basques-on-the-run, had also left Bilbao for Bayonne and later for Geneva when their two girls Idoya and Begoña were still small and while the father still kept substantial control of a very successful shipbuilding business (“astilleros”) in Bilbao.

The Gilles hospitalize the sick Xav at their cost in a local Swiss TB Sanatorium where he spends several months and Idoya, who works at the local Bern News in the Swiss Capital, through her frequent visits, falls in love with him. While he makes friends in the Sanatorium he also happens to have started with them interesting political gatherings. And as both Xav and Idoya become very fond of each other they begin to have tender (explicit) love scenes. Upon his discharge at the end of November, he moves in with Idoya in Bern and both make plans for a wedding in the French Basque town of Biarritz, at the end of January.

All is set for the wedding with coded invitations to those traveling from the Spanish side, but Xav suffers a few days earlier, while skiing in Gstaad, a serious accident-collision, proved to be an attempt on his life by anti-Basque bounty hunters. With ruptured ribs and spleen and a broken femur he is hospitalized and his TB reactivates, so he lands again in the same TB Sanatorium for another three months. Of course the wedding plans are scrapped!... And he meets in the Sanatorium the mysterious Adele Myrte, later important in the story...

In his second stay in the Sanatorium, some of his old friends still there, he resumes with them their former gatherings, a “discussions club” which drifts slowly towards legal and medicolegal topics and then to frank avant-guard, risquè medical lectures. His talks begin to give him reputation through local medical circles and upon his discharge at the end of April he is invited by medical and pharmaceutical institutions of other cities to give more talks in arguable Neurological and Pediatric matters. New wedding plans are being made in the meantime by Xav and Idoya for the end of May”, this time in Romainmôtier, near Geneva, Switzerland.

But for the weeks before the wedding both Xav and Idoya accept to work for Médicines Sans Frontières (MSF) in a remote outpost in Madagascar, he as a physician, she as his nurse. A fantastic experience! They return in time for their wedding (and for more lecturing). The awesome wedding, that takes place uneventfully on May 28th, is followed by a return to work for MSF in Madagascar for a mixed pleasure-work honeymoon. But... the bounty hunters still on Xav’s trail, they get one of their hit men, posing as a local patient, to knife him perilously and even break several ribs of idoya with a kick... But both recover in a few days and resume their generous, unpaid work with MSF in that remote place.

Upon their return to Europe, Xav lectures more and then, with new names again, now as Dr. and Mrs. Kline, they take an extended, driving honeymoon through northern Spain, especially through the Basque region, visiting old friends and relatives, his in the Lecumberri area and all over Navarra, hers mainly in Gipuzkoa. Many little places are described. In a trip to Bilbao, her father, Mr. Gille, well connected in the high politics of Vizcaya and the Autonomous Basque Government, has key authorities meet Xav in person in a room of the Guggenheim Museum and firm arrangements are made to have all pending terrorist charges against him dropped. But before the word and order can reach all the hunters out there to take Xav off their list, these catch up with him!...

Idoya has every bone in her body broken but she survives the “accident”. Xav is eliminated “officially”...


Besides the plot of Basques-on-the-run, of fictional characters, but very real in what it represents, IDOYA also offers the reader:

A. A romantic story of two young lovers with explicit tender scenes.

B. Much about the Basques: Their uniqueness biologically, culturally, linguistically, abundant Basque cuisine and the realities of the Basque fight for independence.

C. Quite a bit of International travel through Spain, France, Switzerland and Madagascar.

D. Avant-guard political, medico-legal and especially medical “discussions” very controversial, even risquè, on hot, current topics, scattered through the story. Xav’s opinions may be shocking!...

E. The antecedent to “Part II” (“Begoña, or the Basques in the XXI Century – 2”) that follows, where the main character is Idoya’s younger sister, Bego, traveling in America, researching her PhD Poli-Sci Thesis and becoming a political innovator, but under fire from the CIA...

Perhaps you will like IDOYA (& her sister Begoña later!). If you have ties of any kind to the Basques (biological, cultural, geographical, historical or simply sympathising), I am sure you will love these mutil ta neska!