I know you’ve always wanted to read a translation of H.P. Lovecraft into Basque… No? Well, how about a Basque translation of an H.P. Lovecraft story about “the barbarous Vascones”? The story is “The Very Old Folk” (1927), and it’s here at après moi, le déluge, the Basque version (translated by “our friend Odei”) followed by the original. Enjoy… or rather tremble in eldritch horror!

Update (2018). The original link is dead; fortunately, Lazar kindly provided an archived one, which I have substituted. And for further security, here is the beginning of the text in both languages:

Pulp literatura: Antzinako jendea

H. P. Lovecraft-en ipuina, euskaraz argitaratugabea

1927ko azaroaren 3an, ostegunean, “Melmoth-i” (Donald Wandrei-ri) idatzitako gutunekoa

Ilunabar gartsu batean gertatu zen Pompaelum probintzi-hiri txikian, Pirinioen oinetan, Hispania Citeriorren. Urtea errepublika garaiko azkenetakoa bide zen, zeren probintzia oraindik senatu-prokonsul batek gobernatzen baitzuen eta ez Augustusen legatu pretorioak; eguna azaroko kalenden aurretiko lehena zen. Mendiak arrosa eta gorri jaikitzen ziren hiritik iparraldera, eta bitartean, eguzkia, hilzorian, mistiko eta gorri distiratzen zen hautseztatutako foruko igeltsuaren eta harri zakarrezko eraikin berrien gainean eta ekialdera zenbait distantziatara zegoen zirkuaren oholtzaren gainean. Hiritar talde batzuk –bekoki garbiko kolono erromatarrak eta adats kizkurreko erromatartutako bertakoak, denak berdin artilezko toga merkeez jantzita, eta, han-hemenka, kaskodun legionariak eta auzoko bizardun baskoi gutxi batzuk, beren janzki zakarrekin– firin-faran zebiltzan zolatutako kale bakanetan eta foruan, zenbait egonezin adierazgaitz eta zehazgabe batek mugituta.

The Very Old Folk
by H. P. Lovecraft
From a letter written to “Melmoth” (Donald Wandrei) on Thursday, November 3, 1927

It was a flaming sunset or late afternoon in the tiny provincial town of Pompelo, at the foot of the Pyrenees in Hispania Citerior. The year must have been in the late republic, for the province was still ruled by a senatorial proconsul instead of a prætorian legate of Augustus, and the day was the first before the Kalends of November. The hills rose scarlet and gold to the north of the little town, and the westering sun shone ruddily and mystically on the crude new stone and plaster buildings of the dusty forum and the wooden walls of the circus some distance to the east. Groups of citizens – broad-browed Roman colonists and coarse-haired Romanised natives, together with obvious hybrids of the two strains, alike clad in cheap woollen togas – and sprinklings of helmeted legionaries and coarse-mantled, black-bearded tribesmen of the circumambient Vascones – all thronged the few paved streets and forum; moved by some vague and ill-defined uneasiness.


  1. John Emerson says

    Silmarillion is amazing!

  2. In this case the amazing euskaldun is Hartza!

  3. I must confess that after reading “Basque lovecraft” I expected a much more tantric comment on the translation… Alas, thanks a lot hat.
    What else could anyone expect from English speaking Basques (‘euskaldunak’) haunting Brussels??? Eldricht horrors, eerie posts and little else.

  4. Oh, well, you never know:
    Yes, there is a “Euskal Kama Sutra” (Basque Kama Sutra”). Without any doubt with a lot of pre-indoeuropean… let’s say modus operandi.

  5. John Emerson says

    Thanks, Hartza! I’ll never read it, alas.

  6. John Emerson says

    Hartza, perhaps you could translate the Basque dialect passages from Don Quixote into Basque. Now that would be a challenge! (I believe that Rabelais and John Skelton also feature little snippets of supposed Basque.)

  7. Into Basque or into English? Well, why not? I have recently re-discovered in my library (think about Gormenghast, but all of it books & trinkets) a good article on that particular passage by Rabelais (who in fact did wrote it in actual Basque!). And I also have some editions of the Quixote there… Anyway, if I recall correctly, the ‘Basque’ used by Cervantes was anything but real (*). I have to check that again (damned Alzheimer!).
    Promised then: You will read soon about those topics in après moi.
    (*) There is a very good article (in Spanish) on the humoristic use of pretended Basque in the Spanish comedies of XVI-XVII centuries at:

  8. John Emerson says

    I did check Skelton, and there was no Basque, alas.

  9. “No Basque, Alas” would make a great title.

  10. Here’s the original flyting between the Don and the Basque:

    — Anda, caballero que mal andes; por el Dios que crióme, que, si no dejas coche, así te matas como estás ahí vizcaíno.

    Entendióle muy bien don Quijote, y con mucho sosiego le respondió:

    — Si fueras caballero, como no lo eres, ya yo hubiera castigado tu sandez y atrevimiento, cautiva criatura.

    A lo cual replicó el vizcaíno:

    — ¿Yo no caballero? Juro a Dios tan mientes como cristiano. Si lanza arrojas y espada sacas, ¡el agua cuán presto verás que al gato llevas! Vizcaíno por tierra, hidalgo por mar, hidalgo por el diablo; y mientes que mira si otra dices cosa.

    Though the narrator calls this bad Spanish and worse Basque, it is obvious that what we have here is pidgin Castilian and nothing more. Shelton (1612, only seven years after the original) hardly seems to notice the difference:

    ‘Get thee away, knight, in an ill hour. By the God that created me, if thou leave not the coach, I will kill thee, as sure as I am a Biscaine.’

    Don Quixote, understanding him, did answer, with great staidness: ‘If thou were a knight, as thou art not, I would by this have punished thy folly and presumption, caitiff creature!’

    The Biscaine replied, with great fury: ‘Not I a gentleman! I swear God thou liest, as well as I am a Christian. If thou cast away thy lance, and draw thy sword, thou shalt see the water as soon as thou shalt carry away the cat: a Biscaine by land, a gentleman by sea, a gentleman in spite of the devil, and thou liest, if other things thou sayst!’

    So we see that the T of insult is fully alive for Shelton, but he’s starting to lose control of the verb morphology: thou leave, thou were, thou cast. Here’s J. M. Cohen’s 1950 translation, from the original Penguin edition, which I cut my teeth on fifty years ago (Cohen has a lot of time for Shelton, as most translators do, despite his multitudinous errors):

    ‘Get along, you ill-gotten knight. By God who made me, if you do not leave coach I kill you, sure as I be Basque.’

    Don Quixote understood him very well, and replied with great calm: ‘If you were a knight, as you are not, I should have punished your rash insolence by now, you slavish creature.’

    ‘I not gentleman? I swear you liar, as I am a Christian. You throw down lance and draw sword, and you will see you are carrying water to the cat. Basque on land, gentleman at sea. A gentleman, by the devil, and you lie if you say otherwise!’

    In Tobias Smollett’s 1755-61 translation, the Basque speaks Mummerset:

    ‘Get thee gone, cavalier, go to the devil, I zay; vor, by the God that made her, if thou wilt not let the coach alone, che will kill thee dead, as zure as che was a Biscayan.’

    The knight, understanding very well what he said, replied with great composure: ‘If thou wast a gentleman, as thou art not, I would chastise thy insolence and rashness, wretched creature.’

    ‘I not a gentleman!’ replied the Biscayan in great choler; ‘by God in heaven! thou liest, as I am a christian: if thou wilt throw away thy lance, and draw thy sword, che will soon zee which be the better man.’

    Smollett gets the verb morphology right, perhaps because he had a better editor. He also has a footnote: “The literal meaning of the Spanish is, Thou shalt soon see who is to carry the cat to the water; or rather, in the corrupted Biscayan phrase, The water how soon thou wilt see, that thou carriest to the cat.” Apparently this was a proverb of the day.

    And lastly here is Google Translate:

    – Come on, gentleman that bad andes; for the God who raised me, that, if you do not leave a car, that way you kill yourself as you are there from Biscay.

    Don Quixote understood him very well, and with great calm he answered him:

    – If you were a knight, as you are not, I would have punished your stupidity and daring, captive creature.

    To which the Biscayan replied:

    – I do not knight? I swear to God as much as a Christian. If you throw spears and sword you take, the water how quickly you will see that the cat is wearing! Vizcaino by land, hidalgo by sea, hidalgo by the devil; and you look what if you say another thing.

  11. Alas, the link I posted is dead. Why, oh why, didn’t I copy at least a modicum of the text?

  12. Too soon old and too late smart, that’s why.

  13. Wow, thanks! I’ll fix the link in the post and add a quote.

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