'Better not tell' reviews in a 'thriller' key ETA's harassment of unprotected judges
With 'Better not tell it' (Larrad Ediciones) María Luisa García-Franco blurs the border between journalism and the novel. In that hybrid territory that Truman Capote transited in 'In Cold Blood' he has put together a 'thriller' that runs "in real times and settings". «In the years of lead and when the law of silence prevailed in the face of ETA terror in Euskadi», explains the author. Finalist of the XVII Fernando Lara Prize, the protagonists of the novel are the judge Isabel Robledo, whom ETA places on the target, the gunman who must kill her and the infiltrator who passes information about the intentions of the ETA members.
García-Franco began as a journalist in the now-defunct newspaper Ya, later joining ABC, a newspaper for which he was a correspondent in the Basque Country for two decades. His first novel is thus inspired by events that he experienced "very closely" because of his work and that his protagonists preferred to remain silent.
"We cannot turn the page without telling what really happened," claims the author, who explains how her novel reflects part of the silenced experiences "of people with whom I lived in the field of politics, journalism or business in those years." “Citizens who were threatened with death, although none dared to tell about it,” she points out. She recalls García-Franco as when they received the news that ETA had their personal data «they decided not to tell, because then what could be expected from Basque society was not solidarity, but distance».
García-Franco chose to tell this story “of intimidation, loneliness and silence” because it caught his attention “that when the massive threat against the judges occurred, with the appearance in 2001 of a list with eighty names of magistrates held by the command Buruntza of ETA, everyone was unprotected, despite the fact that, by intimidating the judges, ETA sought to condition their sentences.
No institutional reaction
"Most of the judges and prosecutors who were then practicing in the Basque Country only received recommendations such as changing their itineraries, looking under the car or turning their heads if they were in the presence of a photographer," explains the author. She regrets that "no one protected those threatened" and "that there was no institutional reaction to protect them until ETA assassinated Judge José María Lidón." «Without protection for Thursdays, the Rule of Law was faltering and ETA got away with it in its claim that there would be no justice. This is very serious, but the judges did not have special protection », she reiterates.
The author believes that her novel "fills a narrative void." «The stories of the deep towns have been told, as 'Patria' does, but an urban story had not been told in a modern Bilbao in which the threat is more out of place for society than one might think. The people in the ETA target were very aware of the threat when the rest of the people believed that nothing was happening here”, concludes the author.
His story "is a symbolic and emotional contribution to the plural configuration of the memory of the victims," says the former president of the High Court of Justice of the Basque Country, Juan Luis Ibarra, who signs the epilogue and regrets that then "the institutions unprotected the judges.
The novel is prefaced by the writer Lorenzo Silva, for whom García-Franco's novel "brings us closer to some of those people who assumed specific and extraordinary risks in defense of the laws that protected citizens and that ended up freeing them from terrorist coercion" . «And he does it -concludes Silva- letting us see that they were not exceptional beings, that the most overwhelming dimension of their heroism is that they suffered fear and anxiety like any of us».