Sunday, May 26, 2019
Assess How Martin Gaite Takes on the Task of Confronting Recent History Both Aesthetically and Ethically in El Cuarto de Atras.
Assess how Martin Gaite takes on the task of acquirefronting recent history twain aesthetically and ethically in El cuarto de atras. El cuarto de atras is Carmen Martin Gaites first post-Franco novel. Encompassing two very distinct genres, it is a grandal novel, whilst in the same framework, a realist memoir of a woman growing up in post- war Spain. Through the use of the strange mode, the author approaches the real social history of the Civil fight and post war period.This essay, will explore how Martin Gaite confronts this recent history, illustrating the hostile semipolitical environment of her youth and the anxiety it eng rarityered. Through aesthetic techniques, particularly the fantastic mode, the novel facilitates a retrospect of memories, which for many, were tarred with pain and anger. What we disc everywhere is that Martin Gaites intended purpose for her novel is not direct criticism of the fascist regime, but rather she aims to capture the collective depot of a gen eration, a memory which is often difficult to yield.To begin, it necessary to understand Martin Gaites decision to write her novel in this way, by gaining a smell of the climate of opinion which prevailed among the leading writers at the end of Francos rule, the meter when Martin Gaite wrote El cuarto de atras. One of her contemporaries, the influential Juan Goytisolo, published an essay in 1967, which criticises the insipid hard-nosed literature that was written in post-war Spain. He warns that Spanish novelists tellm to have lost the ability to smile, despite belonging to a literary tradition that stop draw on Cervantes and Larra.Goytisolo claims that, preoccupied with fighting Franco with words, he and his contemporaries have failed to serve either their cause or the wider interests of literature itself. In his essay, he writes Digamoslo con claridad las generaciones venideras nos pediran cuentas, sin duda, de nuestra actual conducta civica, pero no tomaran a esta en conside racion si, paralelamente a nuestra responsabilidad moral de ciudadanos, no manifestamos nuestra responsabilidad artistica como escritores.No basta, en efecto, reclamar la libertad tenemos que probarla desde ahora con la autenticidad y responsabilidad de nuestras obras (Wood 2012 48). Martin Gaite acknowledged and responded to this take up for a new form of literature that did not rely solely on politics and realism. On November 23, 1975, the day that Franco died, she set out to write El cuarto de atras. Her novel would focus on two main literary goals Firstly, to write a social history of the post-war era and secondly to write a fantastic novel.The novel is narrated by a woman called C, similar to Martin Gaite herself, who tells the story of an un evaluate discover by a mysterious man, in the middle of the night. He has come to interview her. During their night-long conversation, the interviewer encourages the narrator in her recollection of her past. During the course of the conv ersation, the two protagonists notice that in the corner of the room, in that respect is a pile of papers, which continues to grow. At the end of the novel, we learn that this stack of pages comprises the novel itself, even entitled El cuarto de atras.Their conversation has produced a novel. This powerful metafictional image of the written manuscript of the novel appearing within the novel itself creates a sense of participation amongst her readers. In the final pages, when the protagonist picks up the manuscript, we suddenly become aware of the novel we hold in our hands, and see it now as a mere artefact, the product of the conversation to which we have been aesthetically participating. The mystery behind this metafiction helps in establishing the fantastic genre of the novel.Todorov gives a three-part description of the fantastic genre, all three met in El cuarto de atras, the reader considers the fictional world as real, the reader and the narrator share a hesitation everypl ace whether or not what they perceive derives from commonly-held definitions of reality, and no allegorical interpretation of the unexplainable is advanced (Br have got 1987 41). Throughout the novel, the narrator mentions Todorov and quotes several times from his works. The narrator literally stumbles over Todorovs book at the very start of the novel and later on, she spills water on the book, in doing so, making it more real.She even comes across a note she made when finishing reading the book, promising that one day voy a escribir una novela fantastica (p 27). By the end of the novel, when she picks up the manuscript entitled El cuarto de atras, we gain that this is in fact, the fantastic novel which she promised she would write. The following description constructed by Todorov himself indicates why Martin Gaite decided to use the fantastic mode in her novel The supernatural thereby becomes a symbol of language, just as the figures of rhetoric do, and the figure is, as we have s een, the purest form of literality (Brown 1987 153).As well as heightening the creativity of her realist memoirs, Martin Gaite depends on the fantastic genre to uncover certain truths, which lie in vague memories. Explaining, cuando se traspasa esa frontera entre lo que estas convencido de que es verdad y lo que ya sabes si es verdad o mentira, puede ser posible todo1, it is apparent that in exploitation the fantastic, mixing reality with mystery, she makes possible the difficult task of confronting painful, distressing memories experienced during the Civil war in Spain. The fantastic genre of El cuarto de atras is actually hardened by the interviewer, the man in the black hat.The mystery of this nocturnal visitor remains unresolved and we finish the novel not knowing if his visit was real or dreamt-up by the narrator. From his very arrival, a fantastic apparition materialises, with the huge cockroach on the stairway, whose eyes, she will later note, exactly resemble his. With it s stupid appearance the insect summons the reader to anticipate the unknown. While the insect is described in detail, the man whose entry follows is not (Brown 1987 151). The absent description of this character reference is one of several unresolved ambiguities of the novel, taking us in to the territory of the fantastic.It is in this territory and through her conversation with this ghostly character, that the narrator is able to unsay her memories. The narrator realises that her trouble in writing the memoir was due to the fact that she wanted to recapture more than just facts, lo que yo queria rescatar era algo mas inaprensible, eran las miguitas, no las piedrecitas blancas (p. 120). With the image of clear pebbles and breadcrumbs, a symbol from Perraults stories, we learn that she grasps how the truth about history, identity and collective memory, is made up of fragments, like pieces of a puzzle.Acting as her conscience, the interviewer certifies this in verbalize tendri a que aprender a escribir como habla (p. 120). This reflects Martin Gaites view that diachronic narrative does not suffice if and when constructing a novel which successfully approaches such a painful past. For the narrator, rather than assisting her, facts and historical data have acted as an obstacle. Martin Gaite creates a fantastic memoir, with dimensions of both reality and mystery, allowing the readers to find some form of escapism in her novel. As Robert C.Spires notes, the fantastic frees both writer and reader from a one-dimensional, cause and effect, view of existence (1984120). This creative release, which Martin Gaite seeks in her employment of the fantastic, hints at Spains sudden release from the Franco regime. In a further metafictional reference, the narrator explains how, since her childhood, she has experienced a form of escape through literature and fantasy. In her composition, as a child, of a novel revolving around a mythical island called Bergai, she demonstra tes her desire to escape the strict silence of the regime.By declaring her own search for freedom through literature, Martin Gaite hopes that her novel will encourage the freeing of unspoken memories that her own generation has been hiding. The very title of the novel and the plurality of its meaning, indicates Martin Gaites desire to liberate memories. The narrator recalls how, El cuarto de atras was the place where she used to play as a child, enjoying its freedom to develop her creative imagination. With the war, el cuarto de atras begins to be appropriated by adults to store articulos de primera necesidad (p. 157).The narrator explains, hasta que dejamos de tener cuarto para jugar, porque los articulos de primera necesidad desplazaron y arrinconaron nuestra infancia, el juego y la subsistencia coexistieron en una convivencia agria de olores incompatibles (p. 160). Politics seemed to be part of the adult world and the changes brought about by war seemed like rules for an unexplai ned new game (Oleary and Ribeiro de Menezes 2008114). Her description reveals her imagination, yet at the same time, serves to depict the ways in which the war impeded on such basic aspects of everyday life.Through her innocence as a child, she does not politically criticise the war, but instead, discusses its inconveniences on her life as she grew up. The plurality of meaning that surrounds El cuarto de atras surfaces in a further description of this space me lo imagino tambien como un desvan del cerebro separado por una cortina que solo se descorre de vez en cuando los recuerdos que pueden darnos alguna sorpresa viven agazapados en el cuarto de atras, siempre salen de alli, y solo cuando quieren, no sirve hostigarlos (p. 83).In the novel, the task of pulling guts the supply is undertaken by the interviewer, as it can be perceive that his role is to help the narrator reveal hidden memories. This task of confronting past experiences is not an easy one, as it can un-surface de ep fear and anger. It must be remembered that government repression was a formalised expression of the psychological mechanisms adopted by a people whose horror had to be assuaged (Brown 1987162). In establishing the mode of the fantastic, Martin Gaite pulls back the curtain on past realities, and in doing so, captures collective memory.The novel gives a realistic account of life as a child growing up in Spain in 1930s and 40s. The narrator points out that Franco came to power when she was only nine years old and she speaks openly about the effects the Civil War had on her. She recalls personal experiences such as her uncles murder because he was a Socialist and the imprisonment of her friends parents because they were Rojos. Her recollections originate from her perception of them as a child, for example, trips to the bomb shelter are just another game.This innocence and political ignorance of her childhood memories help Martin Gaite to steer away from the blame game and political m otives, giving instead, an account of what she experienced and how she perceived things as a child. The compelling image which most effectively achieves this is that of Francos daughter. The narrator remembers envying her but also note sorry for her. We see her sympathising with Carmencitas grief as a daughter during the dictators funeral. Stating that en mi casa, no eran franquistas, we learn that the narrator is deadly when probed on Franco himself.Although critique on his leadership is inevitable, she avoids victimization her novel to directly attack Franco, but rather to give an account of the effect of his dominance on society. As she watches Carmencita Franco at her fathers funeral, the narrator thinks about what they have in common and realises that they share the same collective memory as women who grew up in a patriarchal society. The novel explores the importance of the Seccion Femenina and of romantic fiction to her generation of women. Martin Gaite offers the reader an insight, often overlooked in history books, into the ideological ingraining of women during the Franco period (OLeary and Ribeiro de Menezes 2008 115). She explains, Todas las arengas que monitores y camaradas nos lanzaban en aquellos locales inhospitos, mezcla de hangar y de cine de pueblo, donde cumpli a reganadientes el Servicio Social, cosiendo dobladillos, haciendo gimnasia y jugando al baloncesto, se encaminaban, en definitiva, al mismo objetivo a que aceptasemos con alegria y orgullo nuestra condicion de mujeres fuertes, complemento y espejo del varon. p. 85) This description has been structured in such a way as to sarcastically signify what was expected on women during the regime. She is able to look back with humour on the expectations of the society she grew up in. As Brown suggests, Luckily, she learned at an early age that the sentiments of the Fascists ruling party were not those of her own family, and that there was a dichotomy between what was thought at home and w hat was valued outside (Brown 1987 158).Martin Gaite discretely ignored the inhibitions to freedom imposed by the Governments restrictions and with the last of her mother, she attended university, surpassing the limited, narrow parameters of womens lives. However, it is apparent that she was in fact influenced by the social tendencies of the time. Through her references to Hollywood stars such as Garbo, and her vision of the interviewer as the hero of a romantic novel, we discover that her thoughts and behaviour are influenced by romantic literature and Hollywood glamour.The fantasy of each of these became a reality and something these women were expected to aspire towards as a sort of model of behaviour. Sharing such memories with her reader, providing an insight into the social customs of recent history, collective memory is captured. The narrator explains her difficulty in writing her memoirs because her memories of the war and post-war years are disordered and confused. She des cribes the post war period as un panorama tan ancho y tan revuelto, como una habitacion donde cada cosa esta en su sitio precisamente al haberse salido de su sitio (p. 93).Her desire to write these memoirs arises when she is watching Francos funeral. As she watches the funeral procession, she summarises what she recalled of Francos dominance in the society she grew up in, Franco pescando truchas, Franco en el Pazo de Mieras, Franco en los sellos, Franco en el NO-DO (p. 119). The image of Franco was everywhere. As she watches his funeral, the narrator states el tiempo se desbloqueaba (p. 119). Francos death set time in motion again, as well as language, thus allowing the author to explore the recent past and personal history (OLeary and Ribeiro 2008113).The disorder of time and space, in El cuarto de atras, brings forth a revelation in ethically confronting recent history, establishing a contrast with the imposed order of the regime whose end has inspired this fantastic memoir. As a final point, attention should be drawn to the tension that Martin Gaite creates in her depiction of life in Francos Spain. This tension lies between her description of the stasis of life under Franco and the life that she managed to live. During this frozen time period, the narrator succeeds in becoming both a novelist and a mother.Despite the limitations, obligations and deprivation of the dictatorship, she recalls how her childhood and adolescence were happy. The juxtaposition between stasis and dynamism is most brilliantly described in her comparison of the Franco dictatorship with that of the game escondite ingles. Under the threatening eye of the dictatorship, people stood still and froze but behind the back of the regime, when and where they had the opportunity, they strove to run their lives as they pleased. In using a popular childhood game to highlight uch tension, her readers are able to return to their past, focusing not on their pain and anger, but rather on the rhythm o f life during this period. To conclude, Martin Gaites novel, succeeds in offering a new style of writing when confronting recent history. The complex interaction between reality and fantasy, produces a creative and gripping memoir which attempts to capture the collective memory of a generation. In recalling her memories as a child and depicting the role expected of women, Martin Gaite provides us with an insight of what it was like to experience life under Franco.El cuarto de atras succeeds as a work that enables us to lift the curtain on painful memories that have been hidden away by so many. The recovery of this memory is a difficult task, but by taking us into the world of the fantastic, these memories can find a path to escape. Bibliography Martin Gaite, Carmen. 2009. El cuarto de atras, (Madrid Libros del Tiempo, Ediciones Siruela). Adrian M. Garcia, 2000. Silence in the Novels of Carmen Martin Gaite (New York Peter Lang). Lipman Brown, Jo. 1987. Secrets from the Back Room the Fiction of Carmen Martin Gaite (Valencia University of Mississippi Press).OLeary and Ribeiro de Menezes, 2008. A Companion to Carmen Martin Gaite (Woodbridge Tamesis). Robert C. Spires, 1984. Beyond the Metafictional Mode Directions in the neo Spanish Novel (Lexington Kentucky University Press, 1984). Tzvetan Todorov, The Fantastic A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre trans. Richard Howard (Ithaca Cornell University Press, 1975). Wood, Gareth J. 2012. Javier Mariass Debt to translation (Oxford Oxford University Press). 1 Martin Gaite, quoted in Gazarian Gautier Conversacion con Carmen Martin Gaite en Nueva York, 11.