LAZARO, Reyes" Metamorphoses"

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This issue of Metamorphoses is in a certain sense a paradox because while it features prominently minoritized, non-dominant languages of Europe (Basque, Catalan, Irish Gaelic, Welsh and Galician) (2) it requests a reading for them oblivious to that fact. Bernardo Atxaga, the most international of Basque writers, said at a poetry reading he gave at Smith College in 2002 that writing in Basque for him was both central and irrelevant. It is central because it is the beloved tool of his trade, but irrelevant because for him, like for many other writers, poetry is above all else a means of communication across specific languages. Atxaga also described at a faculty-student seminar two opposing misrepresentations of peripheral cultures which are still very much alive today. Historically, the Enlightened thinkers—such as 18th century French mathematician, biographer and liberal thinker Condorcet—saw peripheries as backwards and even reactionary, whereas Romanticism constructed them as noble but outside modernity. As a consequence, when contemporary readers and critics turn what could be named "the minority language factor"—that is, the mere fact of writing in a minoritized language—into the central criterion for collecting texts (as they often do), responses to such texts are frequently prejudiced in extremely damaging ways. For that reason Atxaga asked that writers in minoritized languages be treated like any others. In other words, he requested a "normal" reading for them, that is, one unmarked by difference and exceptionality, which amounts to saying free of the prejudices towards peripheries imposed by the ideologically (rather than economically) still almighty state nationalisms. Unfortunately, readings unmarked by difference and exoticism are rarely granted to writers in minoritized languages.