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A seductive, unclassifiable blend of autobiography and fiction set in Reno, from the preeminent Basque author
Nine months as a writer in residence can prove unnerving for anyone. For Bernardo Atxaga, newly arrived with his wife and two daughters, research at the Center for Basque Studies in Reno, Nevada, is anything but straightforward. The neon lights and harsh, windswept desert appear full of ominous signs: A raccoon that watches the house at night, eyes glowing. A series of sexual assaults on campus by an unknown assailant. A spider scuttling endlessly in a glass jar kept by a colleague. And the kidnapping and murder of a young college girl in the house next door.
Fragments of the Basque diaspora appear everywhere: A photo of the heavyweight boxer Paulino Uzcudun, who fought Max Baer in the 1930s. The funeral of a Basque sheepherder. Daily life also turns up some unusual characters—a university friend suspected of involvement in the assaults on campus, a friend who takes Atxaga for long drives in the desert where The Misfits was filmed, and cowboys at a Tex-Mex joint.
Nevada Days, told in a series of diary-like entries, mixes a constellation of lively incidents in Reno with memories from Atxaga’s childhood. The routines of everyday life are the only way to resolve the deep wounds of history and relationships, however fleeting or enduring. Trapped in the deeply alien landscape of Nevada, Atxaga weaves together past and present to see the West from a refreshing, if also ominous and unsettling, vantage.