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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 Six: Passage Lost, Passage Regained: Martín Gaite’s Entre visillos and El cuarto de atrás


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Passage Lost, Passage Regained: Martín Gaite’s Entre visillos and El cuarto de atrás

Entre visillos ([Looking Out From] Behind the Curtains, 1958) and El cuarto de atrás (The Back Room, 1978) deal directly with coming of age for young Spanish women. María del Carmen Riddell identifies both Matute’s Primera memoria (just discussed) and Entre visillos as examples of the Bildungsroman with a feminine perspective (67). In Entre visillos, Martín Gaite focuses on young women in a provincial capital who are consumed with the idea of marriage, a formal recognition of passage to adulthood. In El cuarto de atrás, the narrator attempts to reassemble her youth and childhood during the Franco years and in the process reviews how the Franco regime impacted her formation. Though these novels are in some ways different from the four works previously studied above, both explore similar themes related to adolescent development in a repressive fascist society.

Entre visillos was published just two years before Primera memoria, and so it falls in the same general time frame and cultural episteme. According to Joan Lipman Brown (“One Autobiography, Twice Told”), El cuarto de atrás (1978) actually re-tells almost the same story as Entre visillos in that they both center on identical key issues regarding a woman’s place in the social order. Entre visillos spotlights only one young woman who resists conformity to the regime’s character molding influences, but the...

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