Feminist novelist writes about Spain’s marginalized

Born: May 7, 1960

Passed away: November 27, 2021

Almudena Grandes, award-winning Spanish writer and ardent feminist who rose to fame with an erotic novel about a woman rebelling against social norms, died on November 27 at her home in Madrid. She was 61 years old.

She had been treated for cancer for more than a year, her Spanish publishing house, Tusquets, said, announcing her death.

Grandes has written more than a dozen novels whose protagonists mostly live on the margins of traditional Spanish society, struggling against its sexual restrictions or marginalized by poverty. She was also a left-wing activist who had started writing a series of six novels centered on Spain in the aftermath of its civil war in the 1930s. She has completed five volumes.

Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister, said on Twitter: “We have lost one of the most important writers of our time.

He added: “Committed and courageous, she told our recent story from a progressive perspective.”

Grandes’ breakthrough came in 1989 with the publication of Las Edades de Lulú (The Ages of Lulu), which tells the story of a woman’s first teenage love and how she later pursues her sexual fantasies in a Madrid that undergoes a social transformation with Spain. return to democracy after the death of dictator Gen Francisco Franco in 1975.

The novel won a literary award for erotic fiction, sold over a million copies worldwide, and was made into a film by director Bigas Luna, with a cast that included the first appearance at the screen of Javier Bardem, the Oscar-winning Spanish actor. Among his other books, Malena Es un Nombre de Tango (Malena is the name of a tango) and Los Aires Difíciles (The East Wind) have also been adapted for cinema.

María de la Almudena Grandes Hernández was born on May 7, 1960 in Madrid. His father, Manuel Grandes, had a plumbing business; her mother, Benita Hernández, was a housewife. Almudena Grandes studied geography and history, with a specialization in prehistory, at the Complutense University of Madrid. After graduating, she became a contributor to encyclopedias and travel guides.

Civil war

Several of Grandes’ novels take place during the Franco dictatorship. One of his most recent bestsellers in Spain – El Corazón Helado (The Frozen Heart), from 2007 – begins with the funeral of a powerful businessman in the presence of a mysterious woman, during which a legacy money and documents is unearthed and helps unravel a troubled family saga dating from the ravages of the Spanish Civil War.

It was on the basis of the success of The Frozen Heart that Grandes began her series of six novels, set during the first 25 years of Franco’s dictatorship, from 1939 to 1964. She called her project Episodios de una Guerra Interminable (Episodes in an Interminable War), similar to one of Spain’s most famous literary series, Episodios Nacionales (National Episodes), written by Benito Pérez Galdós at the end of the 19th century.

The first book in the Grandes series, Inés y la Alegría (Inés and Happiness), which was published in 2010 and won three literary awards, tells the story of a left-wing guerrilla group fighting Franco’s forces. Last year, the fourth installment of its series, Los Pacientes del Doctor García ”(The patients of Doctor García), won the Jean Monnet Prize for European Literature, as well as the prestigious National Storytelling Prize, awarded by the Spanish Ministry of the culture. Her latest published novel and fifth installment in the series, La Madre de Frankenstein (Frankenstein’s Mother), was released in 2020.

In a 2013 New York Times opinion piece, Grandes recalled the poverty as well as the dignity of many Madrid residents in the 1960s, a time when “curiosity was a dangerous vice for Spanish children.” She denounced the self-censorship that continues to envelop Spanish society, even after its return to democracy.

Voices for the Vulnerable

“Later, they told us that we should forget,” she wrote, “that in order to build a democracy, it was essential to look to the future, to pretend that nothing had happened. And by forgetting the bad, we also erased the good.

Joan Tarrida, who runs another Spanish publisher, Galaxia Gutenberg, said that Grandes had “followed the great literary tradition of the 19th century of highlighting social issues by creating characters that its readership can truly connect with.”

“She told us about our recent difficult past,” he added, “and gave a voice to the most vulnerable in our society.”

Grandes is survived by her husband, Luis García Montero, poet and director of the Cervantes Institute, the Spanish government agency responsible for promoting and teaching Spanish around the world; their daughter, Elisa García Grandes; the couple’s other two children from previous relationships, Mauro Caffarato Grandes and Irene García Chacón; and three siblings, Manuel, Gonzalo and Luli Grandes Hernández.

García Montero said by phone that his wife had recently worked on a novel (not the last installment in his series) that he called “an allegory of the future”, about a society struggling to maintain individual rights and freedoms after being attacked by a pandemic.

Grandes was a regular contributor to the Madrid newspaper El País. She revealed her cancer diagnosis in one of her columns in October, writing that working on the novel and maintaining her journal contributions helped keep her in a good mood.

“Writing is my life,” she wrote, “and it has never been so intense or so intense as it is now. “

This article was originally published in the New York Times

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