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B a s q u e s in t h e In t e r n a t io n a l W e s t : A n In t e r v ie w w it h F r a n k B e r g o n D a v i d Rio Frank Bergon (b. 1943), a Nevada author of Basque heritage, has writ­ ten and edited nine books and numerous articles. His fiction includes Shoshone Mike (1987), “the best Western since The Ox-Bow Incident to explore the darker side of Nevada justice, to universally indict the frail­ ties of man,” and The Temptations of St. Ed & Brother S, a 1993 finalist for Best Novel of the West awarded by the Western Writers of America (Ronald 251). His most recent novel, Wild Game (1995), has also won critical acclaim throughout the United States. In 1998 Bergon was Anna Urrizaga. GERN1KA MEMORIAL, ELKO P1LOTA COURT. Ca. 1995. Black and white mural. 30' x 30'. Photo by Thomas Carter, f Urrizaga designed this mural to commemorate those who left their Basque homeland to start a new life in America. Elko, Nevada, residents raised enough money to fund the mural, and some helped paint it on the outside wall of their downtown pilota court, a court for traditional paddleball and handball games. Older immigrants from Basque country planted an oak tree nearby in memory of the “Tree of Gemika,” representing the tradition of Basque sovereignty in Europe. D a v i d R í o inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. In fact, he is regarded as one of the most significant voices in contemporary western American writing, particularly due to his brilliant novelistic definition of Nevada’s character. A s Gregory L. Morris has noted, “[B]y imagining Nevada, Bergon imagines the American West” (50). Like other distinguished Nevada writers such as Robert Laxalt, he returns to his Basque lineage to explore the matter of ethnicity in his fiction. He currently serves as professor of English at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. I inter­ viewed Bergon at the University of the Basque Country in VitoriaGasteiz , Spain, in June 2000, where he lectured on the basic myths and realities of the West informing American literature from the sixteenth century to the present.4 His course focused on the literary evolution of two mythic figures— the Western frontier hero and the Indian— and their representative values and ideologies in relation to western American literature as a whole. D R: Mr. Bergon, if I am not mistaken, this is the first time that you have lectured in Europe on western American literature. W hat is your overall opinion or impression about this experience? F B : It was a wonderful experience, especially for the opportunity to consider the West and western writing in an international context, both in relation to Europe and Mexico. D R: Why do you think that the students were so interested in the course? I am particularly curious about the appeal of western writing today for non-American audiences. May we really regard it as part of a global phenomenon, connected with the mythic dimensions of the West popularized through Hollywood films? FB: Yes and no. I began my talks with a consideration of the mythical cowboy and mythical Indian as America’s contribution to world mythol­ ogy, but it soon became clear that the students were interested in all the things the myths leave out, the industrial West, the experiences of women and ethnic minorities, as well as the darker underside of myth— things most movies don’t show. * Portions of this interview are drawn from an earlier conversation published in Spain in Atlantis (Revista de la Asociación Española, de Estudios AngloNorteamericanos ) 19.2 (December 1997). This research was carried out within the framework of the research project UPV 103.130-HAC) 090/99. WAL 3 6 .1 S p rin g 2 0 0 1 D R: Did you ever confront during these lectures any prejudice toward the study of western American literature related, in particular, to the stereotyped and misleading notion that most western fiction consists only of dime novels? FB...


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