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A Companion to Carmen Martín Gaite

A Companion to Carmen Martín Gaite

Catherine O’Leary
Alison Ribeiro de Menezes
Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    A Companion to Carmen Martín Gaite
    Book Description:

    Carmen Martín Gaite produced a large body of work in various genres over the course of her five-decade career, though she is primarily known as a novelist, short story writer, and social commentator. Her work at times reflects, and at times defies, the pattern of development in Spanish fiction since the 1950s. This Companion offers a re-reading of Martín Gaite's works, emphasizing her early experimentalism which culminated in mid-career works (notably El cuarto de atrás), and stressing how, in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the majority of Spanish novelists were engaged in a critique of history, Martín Gaite turned to the writing of cultural history, exploring its intersection with narrative fiction in a positivist rather than a nihilistic mode. Her exploration of gender issues, particularly mother-child relations, towards the end of her career anticipated new directions in feminist thought. Discussions of often-ignored works, such as poetry, drama, children's literature, and literary translations, offer insight into sidelined aspects of this writer's literary output. CATHERINE O'LEARY lectures in Spanish at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth; ALISON RIBEIRO DE MENEZES is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Languages and Literatures, University College Dublin.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-706-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    María Isabel Foley de Butler

    I first met Carmen Martín Gaite thanks to some common friends who introduced me to her many, many years ago, when I was studying at the Complutense University, Madrid, and she had begun to write short pieces following the award of her degree from the University of Salamanca. Later, as a lecturer at the National University of Ireland, in Dublin, I taught a course on the contemporary Spanish novel and includedEntre visilloson the syllabus. I well remember the enthusiasm which that novel sparked off in my students who, overcoming inevitable linguistic hurdles, could identify with those provincial Spanish...

    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-12)

    Carmen Martín Gaite was born in Salamanca on 8 December 1925, ‘a las doce de la mañana de un día frío y soleado’ (at midday on a cold, sunny day).¹ She spent many of her summers in Galicia, in the village of San Lorenzo de piñor where her mother was from, and her writing references both Salamanca and Galicia, the former most obviously inEntre visillos(Behind the Curtains), while the latter is the setting forLas ataduras(Binding Ties),Retahílas(Yarns) andEl pastel del diablo(The Devil’s Cake). Galicia is also present elsewhere, Martín Gaite claimed, in the...

  6. 1 Entre visillos
    (pp. 13-34)

    Carmen Martín Gaite completedEntre visillosin 1957, and submitted it for consideration for the premio Eugenio Nadal under the pseudonym Sofía Veloso (her maternal grandmother’s name). It won the prize and the following year it was published by Destino. It remains one of Martín Gaite’s most popular and successful books.²

    It is surprising that a novel containing such a negative portrait of post-war society experienced so little trouble with the censors. The reader’s report onEntre visillos, dated 15 January 1958, includes the following comment:

    Una historia provinciana de un grupo de chicas, sus estudios y sus amoríos. El...

  7. 2 Short Stories
    (pp. 35-55)

    Many of Martín Gaite’s short stories, though published as collections, first appeared in the pages of literary magazines and journals such asLa Hora,Revista EspañolaandLa Estafeta Literaria. Her first published story is usually reported asUn día de libertad(A Day of Freedom), which was published in the second issue of the short-livedRevista Españolain July 1953, but, as Dolores Romano López has shown, two earlier stories,Desde el umbral(1948) (From the Threshold) andHistoria de un mendigo(1950) (The Story of a Beggar) were published in the journalTrabajos y Días(Salamanca, 1946–51).²...

  8. 3 Ritmo lento
    (pp. 56-70)

    Ritmo lentowas completed in 1962, and came second to Mario Vargas Llosa’sLa ciudad y los perros(The Time of the Hero) in that year’s Biblioteca Breve literary competition. Its publication by Seix Barral in 1963 coincided with the start of the Latin American boom, and followed the publication of Martín Santos’sTiempo de silencio. As a result,Ritmo lentomade less of an impression than might otherwise have been expected. AfterRitmo lento, Martín Gaite abandoned fiction for over a decade to concentrate on academic and other non-fiction works.

    The novel was examined by the censors in 1963....

  9. 4 Retahílas
    (pp. 71-86)

    Retahílaswas published by Destino in 974, just before the death of Franco, at a time when Spain was engaged in a tentative transition period. It was submitted to the censors on May 974 and a verdict of authorization was returned on 13 May. The short censor’s report stated:

    Carmen Martín Gaite vuelve a recordarnos ‘Entre visillos’ con esta novela esencialmente femenina y de gran calidad, llena de matices que a veces nos recuerdan una comedia de Strindberg, otras a Katherine Mansfield, relatándonos la historia de una anciana señora gallega que desea ir a morir al lugar y hogar de...

  10. 5 Fragmentos de interior
    (pp. 87-101)

    Fragmentos de interiorwas written in three months, from January to March 976, and was published by Destino the same year.² It was submitted to the censorship office on 7 June 976 and was authorized without cuts on 9 June. The censor’s report in this case details the family’s living arrangements, describing ‘una familia anormal’ (an abnormal family), a family ‘en la que domina un ambiente influenciado por las corrientes actuales de plena libertad’ (in which an atmosphere influenced by the current trends of absolute freedom dominate).³ The censor highlights the lesson to be extracted from the novel: ‘La parte...

  11. 6 El cuarto de atrás
    (pp. 102-122)

    El cuarto de atrás, written between November 975 and April 978, was first published in 978 by Destino and was awarded the Premio Nacional de Literatura that year. By the time Martín Gaite was writingEl cuarto de atrás, censorship, while still in place, was no longer as strict as it had been; it was abolished in 978. When the novel was submitted to the censors in June 978, the somewhat negative report mentions the author’s fame, briefly outlines the plot, and notes ‘el prisma antifranquista con que contempla el proceso de la vida nacional’ (the anti-Francoist prism through which...

  12. 7 Nubosidad variable
    (pp. 123-142)

    Nubosidad variable(Variable Cloud), first published in 1992, marked a splendid return for Martín Gaite to adult fiction after a 14-year gap followingEl cuarto de atrás.² Written partly in letter form and partly in a confessional notebook style, the new novel subtly develops some of the author’s previous key interests, including interpersonal communication and its relationship to the written text; the theme of personal identity, particularly women’s identity, and the role of literary models in conditioning it; and questions of history and memory as important determinants of one’s sense of self. The book also marks an continuation of her...

  13. 8 La Reina de las Nieves
    (pp. 143-157)

    AlthoughLa Reina de las Nieveswas first published in 1994, it had been in the planning since 1975, its writing interrupted for personal reasons in the mid 1980s. In her preliminary note to the novel, Martín Gaite describes how, following the publication ofNubosidad variable, she dug out her notes and jottings for this book just as she would later have her own hero disinter his past from letters and photographs found in his late father’s papers.²Reina, likeNubosidad, is a novel about personal and family relationships constructed as a journey of self-discovery, but it develops these themes...

  14. 9 Lo raro es vivir
    (pp. 158-170)

    Carmen Martín Gaite’s last novels reaffirm the concerns which preoccupied her over half a century of repression and transformation in Spain, and reaf-firm her canonical status as one of the country’s best-known and most widely read women authors. There is a notable vivacity in the protagonists which she chooses in her final works, a liveliness to their speech and linguistic register, which may attract readers of younger generations. Indeed, Martín Gaite’s universal appeal even towards the end of her writing career was borne out by the long queues of youthful Spaniards who patiently waited for autographs and book dedications at...

  15. 10 Irse de casa
    (pp. 171-184)

    Irse de casatells the story of the return of 64-year-old Amparo Miranda to her home town in Spain, which she left as a young girl with her unmarried mother, Ramona Miranda, a gifted seamstress. Now a mother herself to two grown-up children and widow of a wealthy empresario, Amparo is a successful fashion designer who has lived most of her life in New York. But, as with many of Martín Gaite’s protagonists, she feels dissatisfied with her current life. The novel thus narrates a literal and metaphorical journey back to origins, during the course of which Amparo, despite avoiding...

  16. 11 Essays and Historical Writings
    (pp. 185-204)

    Carmen Martín Gaite is best known as a novelist, but she has made a significant contribution to Spanish letters through her literary and theoretical essays, her cultural historical research and her work as a translator. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of her writing career has been her highly personal and innovative approach to discursive writing. Of Martín Gaite’s essays, onlyEl proceso de MacanazandBúsquedawere submitted to the censor and both were approved, the former for containing ‘nada objetable’ (nothing objectionable) and the latter for being ‘mera composición literaria sin pretensiones ideológicas’ (a mere literary composition with no...

  17. 12 El cuento de nunca acabar
    (pp. 205-220)

    When Carmen Martín Gaite passed away in 2000 it is said that she did so clutching several of the notebooks, or ‘cuadernos’, where she regularly recorded her thoughts and commentaries on the writing process and the incidents of life. These ‘cuadernos’ gave rise in 1983 to one of her most personal books,El cuento de nunca acabar(The Never-Ending Story).² Structurally digressive and generically hybrid, combining elements of the diary, the essay and the autobiography with more fictionalized anecdotes, Cuento was first published betweenEl cuatro de atrásin 1978 andNubosidad variablein 1990. But the impression of a...

  18. 13 Theatre and Poetry
    (pp. 221-243)

    The breadth of Carmen Martín Gaite’s literary output is impressive, and although her dramatic and poetic works are not always of a standard with her fiction, they merit study within the context of her long writing career because they articulate themes extensively explored elsewhere. Furthermore, Carmen Martín Gaite’s first creative excursions were in verse, although it took twenty years and the efforts of a publisher to bring these works to light. Her interest in drama is equally significant for an overview of her work, as so many of her novels draw on a theatrical leitmotif to explore questions of identity...

  19. 14 Children’s Literature and Los parentescos
    (pp. 244-265)

    Carmen Martín Gaite’s literary reputation rests firmly on her work as a author of adult fiction, but, as with many other women writers, she has focused extensively on childhood in her work, and there are significant cross-overs between her writing for adults and children.Entre visillos, like Carmen Laforet’sNada, has rightly been been regarded as aBildunsgromanin a feminist mode; from a different, less theoretical, perspective, however, both works are also narratives of initiation for teenage girls. As we have seen,La Reina de las Nieves, one of Martín Gaite’s late works, deliberately plays with fairy tales, which...

    (pp. 266-272)

    Carmen Martín Gaite died on 23 July 2000 of an illness she did not know she had. She left an enormous legacy to modern Spanish letters. Her writing is rather like the dragonfly of theLibélula bondadosainLos parentescos, something which does not simply provide diversion from life’s troubles, but rather insinuates itself into the reader’s mind and offers an ethically engaged view of the world, of modern society, with all its ills and advantages, and possible ways to deal with them. If much children’s literature is didactic, then in this sense not only her children’s literature but the...

    (pp. 273-274)
    (pp. 275-288)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 289-294)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-295)