Inspired by the tragic event that took place 75 years ago, Guernica is much more than a work of art. It has become a universal statement on the massacre. This condition, a synthesis of avant-garde pursuits and political engagement, has had a great influence not only on the visual arts but also on literature. The poetry reading, given in front of the painting by the writer Bernardo Atxaga (Guipúzcoa, 1951), includes poems by Luis Cernuda and Paul Éluard and traces the impact that the mural by Pablo Picasso has had on the written word.
The reading also serves as a culmination of the first international conference Art, memory and democracy (October 9-11, 2012), an event organised by the University of the Basque Country, the Gernika Gogoratuz Peace Research Centre, and the Gernika Peace Museum Foundation, in the scientific committee of which Museo Reina Sofía has collaborated. At the conference participants looked at how Picasso's Guernica prompted an unrepeatable inquiry into a historical event, thus creating a new figure of what is thinkable, visible and experienceable. The reading by Bernardo Atxaga continues with this critical, open dialogue, using different voices and literatures, including both oral and written documents from the period.
Bernardo Atxaga is one of the most important writers in the Basque language and in Spanish. He has received numerous prestigious awards ( Premio de la Crítica in 1985 and 1989 and the Premio Nacional de Narrativa in 1989). His writing moves back and forth between the novel and the short fiction, with features of both realism and fables. One of his recent works, Markak. Gernika 1937 (2007) is a collection of his reflections on the bombing of this Basque village by the Nazis.