Recommending Carmen Martin Gaite (most already posted on Ramble)
Posted by KathleenB on September 10, 1998 at 19:46:52:
This is a copy of the message I posted erroneously on Ramble... with a few extra bits I just thought of.
Noticing that Spain doesn't currently figure in the "World Literature" section of recommended reading, I'd like to suggest an author called Carmen Martin Gaite. I think my favourite books of hers are Variable Cloud (Nubosidad Variable) and The Back Room (El cuarto de atras), but I like all I've read (others include Threads[Retahilas], and The Snow Queen [La reina de las nieves]).
She has been writing since the post-war period in Spain and is still publishing, despite being an elderly lady. Her prominent themes are identity, language, writing, reading and the imagination, the place of women in society, the way society conditions women (and men) for certain roles, etc, but she isn't writing to expound a theory, she creates "real" characters and situations. She is intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive and has a clear but evocative style I would love to be able to emulate in Spanish (or English for that matter).
Her novels vary from being very realistic to exploring fantasy, but still in a down-to-earth way. It's hard to explain quite what I mean, I'm afraid (you'll have to read her to find out!); but sometimes as readers we aren't sure where the boundary between reality and fantasy lies, or even if it matters (see particularly The back room. However, at the same time she is a keen observer of people and society, and another of her interesting works is a long essay exploring the formation of identity, specifically feminine identity, at the beginning of the Franco era in Spain, examining both official "government-sponsored" attitudes and texts and those produced in the media, songs, women who were role models, her own family's attitudes, etc. It's not at all a dry and dusty academic text, but a fascinatingly anecdotal and personal account. This work is called Usos amorosos de la posguerra (not sure about the title in English: Love and courtship customs in post-war Spain?) It is interesting to read this factual account and The back room side by side, since the novel is in many ways a re-working of this material in a fictional form.
One of the things I find particularly interesting in
Nubosidad is the exploration of female friendship. The book is about 2 girlhood friends, with alternate chapters devoted to each, and mainly takes the form of letters to each other (which are not necessarily sent) and diary-type narrations. The book also explores how feminine identity is constructed in society and how we might escape from restrictive models. Perhaps I'm making it sound like a feminist treatise, but it really isn't: it's about believable people working through issues in their lives.
I hope I have said enough to whet some appetites. I love her work and would like to spread the word!
Still apologies to Spanish peakers for the lack of accents.
- Thanks Kathleen Bonny 22:25:48 9/11/98 (0)
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