Unai Elorriaga

Spain/ Basque Country

© Argazky Press



The author was born in 1973 in Algorta/Getxo on the Basque Coast, where he still lives today. Unai Elorriaga studied Language and Literature and currently works as a translator and critic. For his first novel, Un tranvía en SP, he was awarded the Spanish national prize Premio Nacional de Narrativa in 2002. In the meantime, three further books have been published; they too were composed in Basque and translated into Spanish by the author himself.


Un tranvía en SP (“A Tram to the Himalaya”) tells of an unusual friendship between a young busker and a pair of elderly siblings. Critics were thrilled by the young author’s startlingly perceptive approach to thorny topics such as age, forgetfulness and death. Moreover, they rejoiced at his wilful style.


We welcome Unai Elorriaga, a diamond already polished: A true gift to Literature.

Carlos González, Avui


An original and poetic narrative, which, in all its simplicity, touches the essence of life.

Lourdes Rubio, Levante


For readers still capable of enthusiasm, the unanticipated arrival of Unai Elorriaga is excellent news.

Ricard Ruiz Garzón, La Razón


From minute, poetic scenes and jottings, the young Basque author has constructed a warm-hearted and humorous novel. For once, age is not portrayed as oppressive, unfortunate or offensive, but as a miracle.



Unai Elorriaga’s poetic tone moves with the certainty of a sleepwalker; he encounters his figures with respectful irony. What often seems so difficult in reality, here becomes effortless. 

Patricia Wolf, Der Tagesspiegel



In Vredaman (“Plants Don’t Drink Coffee”), his most recent novel, Unai Elorriaga tells the enchanting tales of a small Basque village. At first, we meet Tomas, whose childlike perspective forms one of four narrative strands. Since his father is in poor health, the boy spends the summer at his aunt’s house and goes hunting for insects with his older cousin. To catch the rare blue dragonfly is his highest ambition. As before with age, the author here skilfully encapsulates the child’s world with his imaginative and playful language.

The most ambitious project of the summer, however, is impelled by Uncle Simón. As a rugby fan he has a tough stand in Spain, where only rarely a game is transmitted, let alone carried out. Yet with the help of 82-year old Piedad, who once lived in England and speaks the language, he manages to realize his wildest dream, to referee a game in Wales against Ireland. The game is a huge success for him, but he goes even further: Simón invites both teams back to his village. Here both players and spectators clamber over the walls of the nearby golf course where Simón and his friends have prepared a pitch. When the police eventually arrive on the sidelines, indecisive and late, the final whistle is blown and all disappear to conclude the evening on the beach.

In scenes which sometimes border on the surreal, Unai Elorriaga presents us with a world in which dreams and desires still form part of everyday life. His protagonists are often simple human beings, who emanate a great kindness and who charm their environment and the reader alike.


An unmistakable author.

El Correo Español


Replete with small joys and charming revela-tions, Plants Don't Drink Coffee (Vredaman) will delight readers with its simple wisdom, delightful pro-se, and capricious cast of steadfast dreamers.

Resource for international literature at the University of Rochester



The young protagonist Phineas is convinced that his vanished sister Sora has been abducted by the henchmen of the dictatorship terrorising their small town. Despite all the risks involved, he sets out to search for her. Phineas comes across reports and documentations of the permanent spying, torture and forced operations used to oppress every dissident in the surveillance state. Into this first part of his novel Londres es de cartón ("London Is Made of Card") Elorriaga weaves a second strand, which reads like a typical English detective story. An elderly lady has been murdered and three men start the detective work of revealing the killer. The murderer they find is the schizophrenic Sora, who is put into a psychiatric ward. Although Phineas finds out what really happened to his sister in the end, he never loses hope of one day seeing her again.

Londres es de cartón questions our familiar perception of reading. With virtuoso skill, the author uses dreams and imitation, confronting the reader with the horrors of a nameless dictatorship and the dubious nature of deductive investigations. Elorriaga is a master in showing us the gaps left behind by a desaparecido.


Worn-out words like originality and astonishment regain all their power when we are talking about Unai Elorriaga.

La Vanguardia


We read Unai Elorriaga’s latest novel almost without taking a breath. Incredibly good, friends.



Short sentences, well-balanced words, silences which suggest dialogues, letters...We can find everything in this little narrative feast.







Mapas y perros (working title)

(original title in Basque: Iazko hezurrak, Susa 2014)

Premio Nacional de la Crítica 2015

Finalista Premio Nacional de Literatura 2015

US : Archipelago Books


Londres es de cartón, Alfaguara 2010, 216 p.

(original title in Basque: Londres kartoizkoa da, Edición Elkar 2009)


Vredaman, Madrid: Alfaguara 2006, 188 p.

(original title in Basque: Vredaman, Edición Elkar 2009)

Catalán: RBA – La Magrana 2006 Galician: Galaxia 2006 Italy: Gran Vía 2008 US: Archipelago Books 2009


El pelo de Van’t Hoff, Madrid: Alfaguara 2004, Punto de lectura pb, 211 p.

(original title in Basque: Van’t Hoffen ilea, Edición Elkar 2014)

Galician: Galaxia 2004


Un tranvía en SP, Madrid: Alfaguara 2003, Punto de lectura pb 2004, 175 p.

(original title in Basque: SPrako Tranbia, Edición Elkar 2001)

Premio Nacional de Narrativa 2002

Over 100.000 copies sold

Filmed in 2008 with Daniel Brühl (Good Bye, Lenin), entitled "Un poco de chocolate"

Italian and Polish translation available

Catalán: Proa 2003 Estonia: Loomingu 2005 Galician: Galaxia 2002 Germany: Schöffling 2005, pb Piper 2006 Italy: Gran Vía 2008 Serbia: Samizdat B92 2005




Y los peces estornudaron, Buenos Aires: Letranómada 2008, 110 p.

(original title in Basque: Doministiku egin dute arrainek)