An awareness of the language itself and the contributions made by the oral tradition have been of great importance in Basque literature, just as in much of the literature close to it.
For example, although Oihenart himself was a very learned poet, he recorded the “Andre-Emili” ballad in 1665. He himself published proverbs together with his poems. Peñaflorida, Iztueta, Azkue or Peillen, who subsequently recorded the oral tradition just as Oihenart had done, are the links in a long chain of writers in addition to historians, anthropologists and literary critics
Written Basque literature cannot be said to have totally abandoned the course created by the oral tradition, neither in its early stages (in the case of Etxepare), nor in contemporary literature, (Gabriel Aresti, Bitoriano Gandiaga…).
In this brief history we shall nonetheless be taking the history of book production as the basis of the history of Basque literature. We are, however, aware of the following three considerations: firstly, oral literature –Bertsolaritza or extempore Basque verse-making, song-writing or theatre– is frequently the indispensable key to gaining a better understanding of written literature; secondly, Bertsolaritza, song-writing and theatre, as well as other genres of oral literature, are of sufficient importance to warrant their own histories; and thirdly, we will be passing over many authors who have exerted a great influence on written literature, like Etxahun of Iruri and J. Casenave, for example.
When producing a history of Basque literature we cannot ignore the marks left by socio-linguistic and socio-political circumstances, because Basque literature has, to a certain extent, been witness to them.
When producing a history of Basque literature we cannot forget that the very concept of literature itself has changed considerably throughout history and that the current autonomous concept known as “literature” or “art” dates back to the end of the 19th century.
In a broad sense, the history of Basque literature has been linked to instruction and usefulness. For this reason, most of the works have been of a religious nature written to provide the people with religious teachings.
In the final analysis, apart from the socio-economic situation and these literary features, the development of Basque literature has not been subject to uninterrupted, coherent development. The Basque Country’s political divisions, the distinctions between dialects, the lack of Basque-medium schools, the socio-political and religious upheavals have led to a split development of the literature.
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