Espina, Concha 1869-1955

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ESPINA, Concha 1869-1955

PERSONAL: Original name, Concepción Espina de la Maza; born April 15, 1869, in Santander, Spain; died May 19, 1955, in Madrid, Spain; married Ramón de la Serna, 1892 (separated, 1916); children: five.

CAREER: Novelist, dramatist, and short story writer. Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, visiting professor.

AWARDS, HONORS: Royal Academy Fastenrath prize, 1914, for La esfinge maragata; theatrical prize, 1918, for El jayón; National Prize for Literature, 1926, for Altar mayor, and 1952, for Un valle en el mar; named cultural representative to the Antilles by King Alfonso XIII, 1928.



Altar Mayor, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1900.

Llama de cera, Cid (Madrid, Spain), 1900.

Tierra firme, Ediciones G. P. (Barcelona, Spain), 1900.

Mis flores, 1904.

Las mujeres del Quijote, A. Lopez del Arco (Madrid, Spain), 1905.

Trozos de vida, 1907.

La niña de Luzmela (title means "Luzmela's Daughter"), Fernando Fe (Madrid, Spain), 1909.

Despertar para morir (title means "To Awake the Dead"), Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1910.

Agua de nieve, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1911, translation by Terell Louise Tatum published as The Woman and the Sea, R. D. Henkle (New York, NY), 1934.

La esfinge maragata, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1914, translation by Frances Douglas published as Mariflor, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1924.

Al amor de las estrellas, 1916.

La rosa de los vientos, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1916.

Ruecas de marfil, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1917.

El metal de los muertos (title means "The Metal of the Dead"), Gil-Blas (Madrid, Spain), 1920.

Dulce nombre, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1921.

Cumbres al sol, Prensa Gráfica (Madrid, Spain), 1922.

El cáliz rojo, A. Aguado (Madrid, Spain), 1923, translation by Frances Douglas published as The Red Beacon, D. Appleton (London, England), 1924.

Tierras del Aquilón, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1924.

Arboladuras, 1925.

Alta mayor (title means "High Altar"), 1926.

Las niñas desaparecidas, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1927.

El secreto de un disfraz, Gráfica (Madrid, Spain), 1924.

El goce de robar, Moderna (Madrid, Spain), 1928.

El príncipe del cantar, Figarola Maurin (Toulouse, Spain), 1928.

La virgen prudente (title means "The Wise Virgin"), Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1929.

Marcha nupcial, Atlantida (Madrid, Spain), 1929.

Huerto de rosas, Atlantida (Madrid, Spain), 1929.

Siete rayos de sol, Renacimiento (Madrid, Spain), 1930.

Copa de horizontes, Compañia Ibero-Americana de Publicaciones (Madrid, Spain), 1930.

El hermano cain, Atlantida (Madrid, Spain), 1931.

Singladuras, Compañia Ibero-Americana de Publicaciones (Madrid, Spain), 1932.

Candelabro, Hernando (Madrid, Spain), 1933.

La flor de ayer, Espasa-Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1934.

Retaguardia, Librería Internacional (San Sebastián, Spain), 1937.

Luna roja, Librería Santarén (Valladolid, Spain), 1938.

Casilda de Toledo, 1938.

Las alas invencibles, 1938.

El desierto rubio, 1938.

Las alas invencibles: novela de amores, de aviación y de libertad, Aldecoa (Burgos, Spain), 1938.

Princesas del martirio, G. Gili (Barcelona, Spain), 1939.

La ronda de los galanes, Católica Española (Seville, Spain), 1939.

Casilda de Toledo, Biblioteca Nueva (Madrid, Spain), 1940.

La tiniebla encendida, 1940.

La otra, 1942.

El fraile menor, Gráfica Informaciones (Madrid, Spain), 1942.

Victoria en América, Nacional (Madrid, Spain), 1944.

La rosa de los vientos, M. Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1944.

El más fuerte (title means "The Strongest"), 1947.

Un valle en el mar (title means "A Valley in the Sea"), Exito (Barcelona, Spain), 1951.

Dulce nombre, Gráficas Reunidas (Madrid, Spain), 1952.

Una novela de amor, 1953.

Aurora de España (la virgen prudente), Biblioteca Nueva (Madrid, Spain), 1955.

Also author of Singladuras, La eterna visita, and Dulce nombre.


Mujeres del Quijote (essays), A. Aguado (Madrid, Spain), 1903.

El jayón (play; title means "The Foundling"), [Madrid, Spain], 1918.

Pastorales, Gil-Blas (Madrid, Spain), 1920.

Cuentos (short stories), Gil-Blas (Madrid, Spain), 1920.

Simientes (articles), V. H. Sanz Calleja (Madrid, Spain), 1922.

Talín y otros cuentos (short stories), Knopf (New York, NY), 1927.

Entre la noche y el mar (poetry), Hernando (Madrid, Spain), 1933.

Esclavitud y libertad: diario de una prisonera (title means "Slavery and Liberty: Diary of a Prisoner"), Reconquista (Valladolid, Spain), 1938.

Moneda blanca (plays), Gráfica Informaciones (Madrid, Spain), 1942.

La segunda mies (poetry), A. Aguado (Madrid, Spain), 1943.

SIDELIGHTS: Considered one of the most successful Spanish women writers of the early twentieth century, Concha Espina penned over fifty books, including novels, poetry, and plays. Influenced by post-romantic sentimentalism and realism, Espina eludes identification with any major literary movement. Her early novels, usually set in rural Santander, feature detailed descriptions of the natural world. Although Espina never declared herself a feminist, her focus is on female protagonists, their internal dilemmas contrasting with the social setting they inhabit.

La niña de Luzmela showcases the writer's philosophy that suffering is a fundamental part of human existence. Roger Moore, writing in International Fiction Review, noted that the novel—about a nétigua, or bird of ill omen—contains a 'second level.' Moore proposed that "the nétigua symbolizes . . . the whole world of witches and witchcraft which it represents in Cantabrian folklore." Moore explained that, "with the death of the nétigua, peace and harmony are restored to [protagonist] Carmen who is free to renew her idyllic life at Luzmela.... Clearly there is a thematic link between the nétigua, with all its folkloric meanings, and the less savory characters" of Espina's novel.

Cited by critics as Espina's best and most successful work, La esfinge maragata is the story of a young woman, Florinda, who is transported into the forbidding world of the Spanish Maragatería and who ultimately sacrifices herself to save her family. According to Judith A. Kirkpatrick, writing in Hispania, Espina "draws heavily on the tradition of regionalist and naturalist novels in her carefully crafted descriptions of the harsh Maragatan district." Kirkpatrick noted that "the text also illustrates Florinda's real and metaphorical passage from a world in which woman is primarily a construct of male imagination and language into a female community where women define themselves in terms of their own strengths and concerns." Kirkpatrick concluded, "neither lover, father, nor priest serves as the catalyst for Florinda's self-sacrifice. She remains entrapped in patriarchal society, but she has freed herself [nonetheless]....Women bonding with other women is the key to their survival, and Florinda's actions directly serve female needs." Brian J. Dendle, writing in Anales de la Literatura Española Contemporanea, stated that the descriptions in La esfinge maragata "exemplify a fundamental . . . element in Concha Espina's concept of the natural world: her belief that nature is the vessel of the sacred, of a transcendental realm which can be attained by those of superior sensitivity and moral integrity." Places such as "the region of birth, Spain, [and] mountains," Dendle noted, are sacred. The critic continued: "egotism, mediocrity, and materialism are a form of darkness, of absence of light; Espina's central characters transcend the blindness and superficiality of the everyday world in their exercise of moral responsibility and in their devotion to absolute values."

Espina presents an innovative perspective on Miguel Cervantes's classic novel Don Quixote in Las mujeres del Quijote. In this book, according to Letras Peninsulares contributor Roberta Johnson, Espina "sets Don Quixote aside to concentrate on some of the ancillary female figures." Johnson stated, "the book, taken as a whole, projects a more concrete and specific vision of women than the novels and other writings of Espina's masculine compatriots."

Espina's first and most important play, El jayón, takes place in rural Spain. According to Mary Lee Bretz, writing in Estreño, "some critics have seen El jayón as a naturalistic play in which natural selection determines the ultimate survival of the fittest." Bretz noted that "the amorous triangle [between Marcela, Andrés, and Irene] contributes only partially to the dramatic conflict," and added: "Espina combines two codes that are not normally concurrent, the classic-tragic and the naturalistic." "El jayón," stated Bretz, "remains . . . Espina's major contribution to Spanish drama" and represents "a new theatrical tradition in Spain."

According to Judith A. Kirkpatrick in Hispanic Journal, in Espina's La virgen prudente protagonist Aurora's "situation presents the other side of the literary norm. Traditional marriage is what is precisely harmful although it averts the impeding of the important work of revitalizing Spanish society in order to realize radical changes in the actions that establish womanhood." Kirkpatrick described La flor de ayer as "a transitional novel in which change in the direction of Spanish politics is clearly noted.... Espina intends to use [protagonist] Victoria as an interlace between the world of the liberated feminists of the Republic and the world of the masculine control of the [revolutionary Fascist] Falange [movement], but with no escape. The two positions are incompatible and Victoria has to set her hopes with one or the other. Middle ground does not exist."

Writing in Letras Peninsulares, reviewer Mónica Jato described Esclavitud y libertad: diario de una prisonera as a book "in which Concha Espina records the experiences lived during the first year of civil contentions in the refuge of Luzmela. But the importance of the diary not only resides in character testimony, in the entry, it is owed the receipt of major attention . . . because the pages narrow findings that bind the creative process of [this] novel about the war [in Espina's 1937 novel] Retaguardia." Characterizing the later novel as a "story of love and pain," Yaw Agawu-Kakraba stated in Romance Notes that in Retaguardia "the action focuses on the Quiroga and Ortiz families, whose respective children, Alicia and Felipe Quiroga, [and] Rafael and Rosa Ortiz, fall in love with each other. These amorous couples, however, experience a rude awakening to the realities and atrocities of the [Spanish] Civil War." According to Jato, "Retaguardia always 'manipulates' historical events in order to negatively characterize the enemy [though] during this period no technical explanations are [available] to employ in the written novel." Jato concluded that Espina acts on "a moral obligation to participate in the conflict" through her writing as a means of registering "an individual testimony to protect the collective living experience." The novelist infuses Retaguardia with both "fiction and an epic dimension," Jato added.

Although Espina was blind by 1937, she continued to write industriously until her death in 1955.



Anales de la Literatura Española Contemporanea, 1997, Brian J. Dendle, "Solar Imagery in Three Novels of Concha Espina," pp. 199-209.

Estreño, fall, 1984, Mary Lee Bretz, "The Theater of Emilio Pardo Bazan and Concha Espina," pp. 43-45.

Hispania, May, 1995, Judith A. Kirkpatrick, "From Male Text to Female Community: Concha Espina's La esfinge maragata," pp. 262-271.

Hispanic Journal, spring, 1996, Judith A. Kirkpatrick, "Concha Espina: Giros ideológicos y ha novela de mujer," pp. 129-139.

International Fiction Review, winter, 1980, Roger Moore, "The Role of the 'nétigua' in La niña de Luzmela," pp. 24-28.

Letras Peninsulares, spring, 1996, Roberta Johnson, "Don Quixote, Gender, and Early Twentieth-Century Spanish Narrative," pp. 33-47; fall-winter, 1999, Mónica Jato, "Retaguardia y Diario de una prisionera, de Concha Espina: ¿Novela autobiográfica o diario novelado?," pp. 437-454.

Romance Notes, winter, 1996, Yaw Agawu-Kakraba, "Reinventing Identity: Class, Gender, and Nationalism in Concha Espina's Retaguardia," pp. 167-179.


El poder de la palabras, (April 22, 2002), "Concha Espina."

Escritoras, 22, 2002), Ana Coe Snichp, "Concha Espina."*

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Espina, Concha 1869-1955

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