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Coming of Age in Franco’s Spain

Anti-Fascist Rites of Passage in Sender, Delibes, Laforet, Matute, and Martín Gaite


Michael D. Thomas

How could authors not write about the effects of a civil war that tore their nation in two, that divided and destroyed families and friends? They had to tell the story, though they were carefully scrutinized and censored. How could they resist artistically and present alternate voices and visions for the future? Writing is resistance, remembering is resistance. Writing is remembering and selecting those memories that, in these authors’ view, have intense significance in the formation of the self. Sender, Delibes, Laforet, Matute, and Martín Gaite have left a legacy of confrontation and hope. Coming of Age in Franco’s Spain studies the social and psychological damage of the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and identifies an aesthetic of resistance, a portrayal of emerging adults who rebel with courage and caring that even more mature adults do not show. Whereas the Fascists engaged in the process of «othering», considering certain groups to be enemies, sub-human, deserving death, meriting bondage in slavery, these novels describe protagonists who learn to reach out to «the other». They advocate treatment of the marginalized and persecuted in a manner diametrically opposed to the policies and practices of the Franco Regime. The positive message conveyed is that the human spirit was not completely crushed by the Fascists’ mandate to make all Spanish citizens conform to the Regime’s own «values», but these authors advocate authenticity, creative freedom, universal values, all alive and well, even in the darkest of times; they crafted a blueprint for hope through complexities of the narrative art.
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Chapter Five: Selfhood Subsumed: Perverted Passage in Matute’s Primera memoria


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Selfhood Subsumed: Perverted Passage in Matute’s Primera memoria

In Primera memoria, we focus on the passage of a fourteen-year-old girl, Matia, and her fifteen-year-old male cousin, Borja. The experiences of each echoes what we have observed previously in the lives of the young boys—Pepe Garcés and Daniel el Mochuelo—and an adolescent girl—Andrea. We see the familiar scenarios of community and family strife, gang violence, and irrational hatred, even persecution. Young people are again under pressure to choose a path that produces destructive hate and requires social conformity to the fascist worldview. As before, the result is a form of dehumanization, an intentional process of character molding, and a loss of individual identity and freedom. But Primera memoria is different from works previously examined in that we observe in Matia an identical pattern of resistance and rebellion, which leads to an only momentary glimpse of altruistic maturity, the courage to take a stand in support of a victim. In the end, the story seems to dramatize the failure of a naturally shy young girl who is silenced by the machinations of her manipulative cousin and her domineering grandmother. We see Matia’s deliberate attempt to reach out to Manuel Taronjí, a mistreated enemy of her family, and a moment of truth in which Matia speaks out against fascist injustice and stands with Manuel and his family. But this act ultimately leads only momentarily to a sense of true selfhood...

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