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.
“Nevada Days serves as an inverse retelling of [Laxalt’s Sweet Promised Land], and through the precision of Atxaga’s language and the truths about Nevada and America he brings forth, it certainly meets the standard set by its predecessor. Its pages carry the smell of sagebrush and ring of slot machines, and will bring readers deep into its messy beauty.”—The Washington Post
“The sublime meets the surreal in this hypnotic blend of memoir and fiction by the great Basque writer as he explores Reno, Nevada, an outpost teeming with David Lynch–like menace and haunted dreams.”—Oprah.com
“In brief journal-entry chapters translated into English by the inimitable Margaret Jull Costa, Atxaga’s grand curiosity never dulls or wavers, nor does his wife’s and two daughters’. Part of the thrill of Nevada Days is to marvel at a family’s ceaseless desire to explore America at a crossroads during the limited time they have.”—The Millions
“Atxaga’s intriguing new novel, Nevada Days, is a marvelous me´lange that combines interwoven time- and storylines with journal-like entries, fiction, and memoir to create a literary effect at once entertaining and disturbing.”—Pasatiempo
“In real life, Bernardo Atxaga had a nine-month-long residency at the University of Nevada’s Center for Basque Studies. That experience provides the inspiration for this novel, which fictionalizes his time in Nevada and offers a glimpse of shifting landscapes, dislocation, and the surreal.”—Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“[Nevada Days] takes a diary form, and thoughts, observations, and memories, bump into each other like buoys on the sea. . . . Readers will smell the pervasive sagebrush and feel the lurking danger of the Wild West, a place where footsteps quickly disappear in the dry air and always shifting sand.”—Ploughshares