La chica rara: witness to transgression in the fiction of Spanish women writers 1958-2003



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The last twenty years marks a considerable increase in the scholarship of the fiction of Spanish women writers. After Franco’s death in 1975, Spanish women gained increasing freedom to write of their experiences of life under a dictatorship. In this study, I examine how Carmen Martín Gaite, Concha Alós, Carme Riera, Adelaida García Morales, and Luisa Castro treat the topics of family, space, and writing. The novels and short stories of these women writers span the last half of the twentieth century and trace female subjectivity and Spanish women’s unique perspectives on feminism. In Chapter One, I show how the selected authors re-write the traditional images of the family to displace masculine authority. The family is the building block of patriarchal society and Spanish women writers reconstruct the family to dismantle Francoist ideology. The relationships between mothers and daughters, in Concha Alós’s Los cien pájaros (1962) and Luisa Castro’s Viajes con mi padre (2003), is a source of empowerment for the young female characters who look to their mothers as models of independence. Incest, in Alós’s Argeo ha muerto, supongo (1985) and García Morales’s El Sur (1985) and La tía Águeda (1995), is an example of familial dysfunction that Spanish women writers expose. Finally Riera, Martín Gaite and Castro celebrate their regional culture to challenge Francoist attempt to erase Catalan and Galician identities. Chapter Two discusses the authors’ examination of space and the techniques women use to appropriate space for themselves within the home and in public. Martín Gaite’s El cuarto de atrás (1978) is one of the most outstanding explorations of space in twentieth-century Spanish literature. In Martín Gaite’s Entre visillos (1958) and Alós’s Los cien pájaros (1963) the reader sees how young female protagonists enter prohibited parts of the home, such as the father’s library, or neighborhoods to test the limits of family and societal behavior codes. In Chapter Three I explore the transgressive function of women’s writing of and during the Franco dictatorship. I use the term anti-novela rosa to refer to the prose of Spanish women writers that do not offer neat solutions to the reader. Unlike the novela rosa that assures its reading audience of a ‘final feliz’ the work of Carmen Martín Gaite, Luisa Castro, and Carme Riera purposely omit conclusions that define the characters’ futures. These conclusions function to counter-narrate Francoist strictures of female comportment. Spanish women writers have successfully challenged patriarchal society to voice their experiences and perspectives. Their fiction addresses the undercurrent of the Franco era to reveal ‘unspoken’ topics including incest, violence, and drug use. In the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, Spanish women writers articulate women’s issues with courageous honesty. They have gained strong literary voices in the fiction of Spain.