Laforet Díaz, Carmen


Laforet Díaz, Carmen
b. 1921
   Writer
   Carmen Laforet burst upon the post-Civil War literary scene at the age of 23 with the novel Andrea (Nada), which won the Nadal Prize in 1944. Laforet's life spanned two radically different periods in Spanish cultural and political history. She experienced the freer social attitudes towards women that the Republic (1931–9) brought during her adolescent years in the Canary Islands. The end of the Civil War (1936–9), however, found her as a student in Barcelona, where she first experienced the backlash against women's freedom that the victorious Franco regime inspired. Laforet's fiction, which includes four long novels, seven novellas and a number of short stories, exemplifies the conflicting pressures caused by the abrupt shift from the liberal ambience of the 1920s and 1930s to the repression of the Franco regime. Laforet's first novel Andrea reflects these two worlds. The protagonist Andrea arrives in Barcelona from a Catalan village to live with relatives, whose formerly comfortable bourgeois lives have been disrupted by the war. The events of the household reflect the tensions and repression of post-Civil War Spain, while on the other hand Andrea's university friends and milieu capture some of the pre-war freedom and artistic promise. Andrea marked an important milestone in Spanish fiction; it was a model for treating the Civil War and Franco's Spain in an oblique way that could pass the censors, and it opened the doors for the large number of women writers who have now become part of the Spanish literary canon.
   Shortly after the publication of Andrea, Laforet married the journalist Manuel Cerezales. The demands of motherhood (she has five children) and the unfavourable position of women during the 1940s and 1950s slowed Laforet's production, but she continued to publish until 1963 when, inexplicably, she stopped writing fiction. La isla y los demonios (The Island and the Devils) (1952) reflects the pre-war years Laforet spent in the Canary Islands and captures the more liberated milieu that allowed young girls to develop artistic talents. La mujer nueva (The New Woman) (1955) and La insolación (Sunstroke) (1963) both focus on post-War Spain and the restraints on men's and women's roles imposed by the Franco regime. Although La mujer nueva deals ostensibly with a personal religious (mystical) crisis that Laforet herself experienced in the early 1950s, the novel provides a general view of life in 1950s Spain-the pseudo-religiosity, the materialism, the lack of choices for women in society. La insolación, amazingly for its day, deals with the theme of homosexuality in a rigidly machista and patriarchal system.
   Much of Laforet's fiction centres on personal freedom. Her work has much in common with French existentialism, which influenced European thought during the years she was writing.
   Major works
   Laforet Díaz, C. (1945) Nada (Andrea), Barcelona: Destino.
   —— (1952) La isla y los demonios, Barcelona: Destino.
   —— (1955) La mujer nueva, Barcelona: Destino.
   —— (1957) Novelas I, Barcelona: Planeta.
   —— (1963) La insolación, Barcelona: Planeta.
   Further reading
   - El Saffar, R. (1978) "Structural and Thematic Tactics of Suppression in Carmen Laforet's Nada", Symposium 28: 119–29.
   - Johnson, R. (1981) Carmen Laforet, Boston, MA: Twayne (an accessible overview in English).
   - Ordóñez, E. (1976) "Nada: Initiation into Bourgeois Patriarchy", in L.E.Davis and I.C.Tarán (eds) The Analysis of Hispanic Texts: Current Trends in Methodology, Jamaica, NY: Bilingual Press (a feminist reading of Laforet's major novel).
   ROBERTA JOHNSON

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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