Karmele Jaio (Vitoria, March 19, 1970) has been the winner of the 2020 Euskadi Prize for Literature in the category of ‘Literature in Euskera’ for her latest work, ‘Aitaren etxea’ or, in its translation into Spanish ‘La casa del father’. In ‘Aitaren etxea’, Jaio tries to portray inherited masculinity models that are reproduced – consciously or unconsciously – in people’s daily lives, whether in the private or public sphere. To do this, he tells the story of Jasone and Ismael, a couple of writers who live their careers differently: he is recognized and praised by the public, while she plays his “black”. A discrimination that, according to this author, all women can suffer in different aspects of life, but in which she is professionally concerned she is optimistic: “There is much to do, but to see the bottle half full, there is It has to be said that in our literature, in Basque literature, the contribution of women has been essential, one of the best that has happened to Basque literature in recent years “, she says.
What has it meant for you to win the 2020 Euskadi Prize for Literature?
It is an important recognition. Since it was published it has given me many joys. I felt that I was receiving a good response from people, readers and booksellers, and now with the Euskadi Prize it is like closing the brooch of recognition that the book has had.
What is the most difficult part of writing literature in Basque?
The most difficult thing can sometimes be visibility within even your own community, your own country. In a bookstore, many times you have to search and search to find the literature section in Basque. It is not at the same level of visibility that literature in Spanish can be, that is one of the difficulties, but I also believe that we have advantages. Basque literature is making an important path. We have a language that despite being very old is also very new. Since the 60s, since we have the Basque unitedWe have the feeling of treading on virgin snow, of doing new things. Like everything, it has its pros and cons. The cons can be the vision that can be had from the outside, that vision that it is something small. I do not think that there are large or small languages, they can be used more or less, but what we have to do is from our quotation marks “smallness” to talk about topics that may become interesting for anyone from anywhere.
Father’s house talks about a man who manages to get rid of the dominant role and shows himself as a new man. How can you get rid of that toxic masculinity?
Is not easy. Changing values in general is very difficult. We have been socialized, men and women, about values and we carry that on our hard drive. It is not easy to detach. The first step to letting go of those mandates that we have learned – expectations, different opportunities between men and women – is to be aware that they exist. The book tells a little about the process of becoming aware of a person, in this case of a man, of that weight of the masculinity model that he has learned. Many times it seems to me that we live without realizing much of the influence it has, that it influences everything we do, both in the public sphere and in the most intimate. It influences how we talk in a work meeting, but it also influences the way we fall in love with another person. In all areas of our life and limits us. How can it be done? It is very difficult, but the first step is to be aware that we have that condition, that we have learned to be men and to be women in a way and to realize it. The next step would be to get out of there.
Is it more difficult for them to be aware of the gender roles that are inherited?
Women have had and have a need to speak more and reflect more on these issues because we are in a worse position and this makes you mobilize or reflect more. It makes you more aware of it, but we also have the tools that feminism has given us. Feminism has given us some theoretical instruments that help us understand things that happen to us in everyday life as women and that is why I think it is important to approach and understand feminism by men. It is an instrument that opens our eyes, that allows us to see everything that is hidden under normality, that normality where it seems that everything is neutral, but that is full of conditions. Feminism helps us see it. And always those who are in a privileged situation have less need to think about it, so I think it is necessary for men to do so.
Jasone is a writer, but Ismael’s work is more widely recognized in such a way that she acts as her husband’s “black”. Do situations like that continue to be reproduced today in literature?
Perhaps not as it is told, but what happens in the novel is a reflection of many different situations that can occur: that lack of prestige, that lack of recognition, that devaluation of everything that has to do with the feminine. Women write about universal issues and many times they are considered women’s issues and when men write about men they do not talk about men, they talk about the human being in general. On the one hand, I believe that we must claim that universality of the themes that appear there and the prestige, not only in literature. In the novel questions are asked in this regard: Who gives prestige to a literary work? Who decides which issues are important and which are not? What writing conditions do women have, often conditioned by the overload of care work? There are many factors that make our work not able to meet the same conditions as that of men.
How much of Karmele is in Jasone?
There is much of Karmele in Jasone, in Ismael and Libe. Of course, I am a woman, I am a writer and in everything we write there is something of ours, but that does not have to be coincident with what is happening in the story you are telling. There is something that you have ever felt, there is something that you have seen that someone close to you has felt … Everything that happens to us in life is reflected in what we write, it may be in the plot of a novel or in what we want to count at the end. In this case, in all the characters there is a part of me.
What do you think should be done to promote literature written by women?
Women have lived for a long time with the burden that we make women’s literature and men make literature. One of the challenges in literature is that what a woman tells if she is recounting a woman’s experiences in a novel is not considered a topic of women, that it is considered a topic of human beings, just as it concerns us all when it speaks of a man. That, the prestige and that women become references. There is still a lot to do there, but to see the bottle half full, it must be said that in our literature, in Basque literature, the contribution of women has been essential, the best that has happened to Basque literature in recent years. years. Writers such as Eider Rodríguez, Uxue Alberdi, Katixa Agirre or Miren Agur Meabe. So many and so many writers who are showing a vision that until now did not appear in literature or that appeared less and that have become a reference, not only for women who may want to write, but also for men who write and that is important.
Do you think that discrimination against women in literature could disappear completely?
Inequality is structural, multidimensional, it reaches all areas of life and it is difficult, it is a very difficult job. It is a struggle that as soon as it relaxes there is the danger of taking steps backwards. We must be very attentive, the complicity and commitment of men is essential also because the inequality of women and men does not affect only women, it affects the whole of society. Equality would be an impressive improvement for society. There are days when I see the bottle half empty, but I think that whoever wants to advance in equality in our society has to see the bottle half full because it is such a difficult job, the inertia is so strong, that if you don’t have that hope it is difficult keep pushing forward.
Have you as a writer suffered discrimination of any kind in your work?
All women unconsciously or consciously live a different reality than men in all aspects of life. From the moment you have been socialized differently, you have been told that certain studies are not for you and you have had to choose perhaps others unconsciously, believing that you are doing it with total freedom or when in a meeting the word of a man it has more value than a woman’s. There are many situations that we often do not consider, which are subtle, but are highly unequal. All women live in a different situation from men, and that men live a privileged situation in this society is something that is visible.
What are you drawing inspiration from for your next work?
I am always inspired by what I see, what I live, what is close to me. Right now after everything that has happened and what is happening I am thinking a lot about the fragility of the human being. There is a theme that is always present in everything I write, which are the relationships between human beings, human relationships, the words we don’t say … I can’t anticipate exactly what I’m writing, it’s still very abstract, but one topic that I always get to is that of human relationships.