” Ours was a Falangist ”
Natxo Velez | EITB Media
The journalist and writer Alberto Barandiaran publishes the book “Gurea falangista zen”, a generous, documented, stimulating and exciting memory exercise.
When he turned 80, the mother-in-law of the journalist and writer Alberto Barandiaran (Altsasu, 1964) gave him a notebook that had belonged to his brother, who rebelled against the Republic and died at the front during the Civil War.
From there, Barandiaran has gathered different threads, has broken silences and has basted in “Ours was a Falangist” (Susa, 2021) a documented and moving story about the Civil War and the postwar period. Barandiaran has combined the war memories compiled in Luis Fernández Arregi’s notebook with testimonies from the most diverse sources to tell these little truths, buried many times, by the truths in capital letters among which he has met Pablo Amillano Baztan, his Falangist grandfather.
The book recounts, from the honesty and with great detail, events of the time, collected both on the war fronts and in the kitchens of a town like Altsasu, and addresses the questions that all of them open. Obviously, “no one is guilty or indebted for what their grandparents did”, as Barandiaran collects in the fabulous last chapter of his book, but every effort to not close our eyes to our past, the desire to know, is appreciated. more despite everything.
We have spoken with Alberto Barandiaran.
When and why did you give yourself permission to expose what others had kept secret?
The truth is that I have never refused that permission. The stories that I write are mine, even though I tell the lives of others or the events that have happened to them.
I and anyone have the right to speak and write about whatever we want. In that I am radical. What happens is that sometimes your stories or your words can hurt, and, obviously, that is something that must be valued: how far do you want to go. In this case, that has been the most difficult thing: deactivating the sufferings.
What have you felt when dealing with something that has been in the shadows for so long? What reactions have you found among readers?
In bringing it to light, I have felt responsibility. But it is a conscious responsibility, and, in that sense, I am calm.
In the responses of the readers, I have found, in general, gratitude. There are those who have felt very identified by having similar cases at home or in the family; There are those who have praised the structure and the writing of the book, and I have been especially happy; and there are those who have expressed concern to me, a reaction that I understand.
I’m getting reactions of all kinds, but, as I told you, most of them are good.
‘Ours was a Falangist’
Does a cleaner one emerge after getting muddy in memory?
I do not know. I have come out dirty. But that doesn’t have to be bad.
I would be more comfortable and clean if I had kept quiet about what I found, but the truth is that I do not trust much of those who come out clean and immaculate from these processes.
As the writer Slavenka Drakulic does in “They would not kill a fly”, a book about the trials against the military of the war that ended with Yugoslavia, you do not deny the humanity of those who participated in the war, without that meaning that their actions are justified. What brings us to the simplicity of taking perpetrators for monsters?
Ignorance, surely. It is more effective and sincere to understand that people in extreme situations can and do make decisions that way.
The most important thing is to understand why these decisions are made, what causes them, how they react. In this way, we can understand much better the mechanisms of repression and conflicts, and we can really have more tools to anticipate and avoid them.
What consequences has the forced silence decreed by the winners after the war had? Why, as you say, “is it easier to search military archives than to break the silence of kitchens”?
I think it has had very serious consequences. Silence generates secrets, and secrets rot what you want to keep and preserve.
Often times, the secrets belong to the intimate sphere, the one related to the home kitchen. Those are the hardest to break and the most painful.
The book rests on a great documentation work. How has that hard work been? Where would you recommend continuing to discover things from the war of 1936 to anyone who has read “Gurea Falangista zen”?
Yes, there is a lot of documentation work. This job requires great stubbornness, not giving up and having patience.
I would say not only to those who want to know more about the war of 1936 but to those who want to investigate or tell anything from journalism to follow their intuition: if you think something is interesting, tell about it, because it is sure that it is also interesting for others. And be faithful to the sources: search, check, check.
The texts of the front newspaper written by Luis Fernández Arregi are quite lukewarm, almost technical, they lack the political din and the epic that such writings are supposed to be. What do you think it is due to?
I think that Luis Fernández did not have, at least at the beginning, sufficient awareness to understand in what socio-political context he moved. Was very young.
By another lake, surely there was military censorship, since they were in the front, and these were very hard times.
What future do you want for the book?
Let people read it.