Fernández Cubas, Cristina 1945-
FERNÁNDEZ CUBAS, Cristina 1945-
PERSONAL: Born May 28, 1945, in Arenys de Mar, Spain. Education: Graduated from law school; studied Arabic in Egypt.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Tusquets Editores, Cesare Cantú, 8, 08023, Barcelona, Spain.
CAREER: Writer; journalist in Peru and in Barcelona.
Mi hermana Elba (also see below), Tusquets Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1980.
El vendedor de sombras (fairy tales; see also below), illustrated by Montserrat Clavé, Argos Vergara (Barcelona, Spain), 1982.
Los altillos de Brumal (also see below), Plaza & Janés Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1983.
El año de Gracia (novel), Tusquets Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1985.
Cris y cros; El vendedor de sombras, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1988.
El ángulo del horror, Tusquets Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1990.
Mi hermana Elba; y Los altillos de Brumal, Tusquets Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1988.
Con Agatha en Estambul (short stories), Tusquets Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1994.
El columpio, Tusquets Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1995.
Hermanas de sangre, Tusquets Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1998.
Los altillos de Brumal; En el hemisferio sur, Plaza & Janés Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1998.
Cosas que ya no existen, Lumen (Barcelona, Spain), 2001.
Contributor to Doce relatos de mujer, edited by Ymelda Navajo, Alianza Editorial, 1982. Author of an adaptation of an unfinished novel by Edgar Allan Poe titled El faro.
ADAPTATIONS: Los altillos de Brumal was made into a film in 1988.
SIDELIGHTS: Cristina Fernández Cubas began her writing career as a journalist, but has become best known for her "unsettling" and "disquieting" fiction, as it is often termed by reviewers. At a young age, her interest in supernatural tales was sparked by her brother's retellings of Edgar Allen Poe and by her nanny's scary stories. Another hallmark of her work, her fascination with enclosed spaces such as attics, drawers, and trunks, has also been with her since childhood.
Although Fernández Cubas does not like the label "Gothic," it is often applied to her work. "Her fiction reflects some of the main preoccupations of Gothic literature, such as an interest in the divided self and in the 'unspeakable,' a term that encompasses the unreadable, the incomprehensible, and the unknowable," Kathleen M. Glenn wrote in Encyclopedia of World Literature.
El año de Gracia, one of Fernández Cubas's early novels, is full of this sense of the unspeakable. Daniel, a young man, leaves the seminary and is given a "year of grace"—a year for traveling, free of obligations—by his sister. With this period of freedom, he heads out into the world in search of adventure. Having read Robinson Crusoe and similar action tales, he thinks he can find it by becoming a sailor, but he soon finds more adventure than he had bargained for when he is shipwrecked on an isolated island in the Hebrides. This island, which was contaminated by experiments with chemicals during World War II, is home to only a flock of deformed sheep and a mentally and physically troubled shepherd named Grock. Since Grock speaks an eclectic language composed of mixed Celtic and English, Daniel cannot talk to him, but they eventually find other methods of communication. A year later, Daniel is rescued by a group of scientists who kill Grock, destroy Daniel's manuscript, and forbid him ever to tell anyone about the island.
One of Fernández Cubas's best-known works is the short story collection Con Agatha en Estambul, which includes the story "Mundo." The word "mundo" can mean both "trunk" and "world" in Spanish, and both senses of the word are intended. The story is narrated by Carolina, an elderly woman who was sent into a convent against her will at the age of fifteen after she accidently caught her family's housekeeper having affairs with her father and with the local priest. Carolina brings into the convent with her a carved trunk, full of things for which she no longer has any use—including her mother's wedding dress, which she will never get to wear—and of secret compartments. The nuns within the convent have their own secrets as well, especially the supposedly mute Madre Perú. "Fernández Cubas highlights female creativity and the art of storytelling," Glenn wrote in Hispania, "as the nuns embroider table linen, sheets, wedding gowns, and christening dresses for the use of others, Madre Perú carves into the surface of a calabash her life history, and the aged Madre Carolina narrates hers to us."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Encyclopedia of World Literature, St. James Press (Detriot, MI), 1999.
Perez, Janet, Contemporary Women Writers of Spain, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1988.
Anales de Literatura Española Contemporanea, Volume 13, number 3, 1988, Mary Lee Bretz, "Cristina Fernández Cubas and the Recuperation of the Semiotic in Los altillos de Brumal," pp. 177-188; Volume 18, number 2, 1993, Kathleen M. Glenn, interview with Fernández Cubas, pp. 355-363.
Explicacion de Textos Literarios, Volume 22, number 1, 1993-94, Catherine G. Bellver, "El año de Gracia: El viaje como rito de iniciacion," pp. 3-10; Volume 24, numbers 1-2, 1995-96, Janet Perez, "Fernandez Cubas, Abjection, and the 'Retorica del Horror', " pp. 159-171.
Hispania, May, 1995, Kathleen M. Glenn, review of Con Agatha in Estabul, p. 311; December, 1995, Kathleen M. Glenn, review of El columpio, p. 118; March, 1996, Phyllis Zatlin, "Amnesia, Strangulation, Hallucination, and Other Mishaps: The Perils of Being Female in Tales of Cristina Fernández Cubas," pp. 36-44.
Hispanofila, January, 1998, Janet Perez, "Cristina Fernández Cubas: Narrative Unreliability and the Flight from Clarity; or, The Quest for Knowledge in the Fog," pp. 29-39.
Insula, April, 1994, Fernando Valls, "De las certezas del amigo a las dudas del heroe: Sobre 'La ventana del jardin,' de Cristina Fernández Cubas," pp. 18-19.
Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, Volume 7, number 1, 1995, Catherine Bellver, "Robinson Crusoe Revisited: El año de Gracia and the Postmodern Ethic," pp. 105-118; Volume 7, number 2, 1995, Robert C. Spires, "Postmodernism/Paralogism: El angulo del horror by Cristina Fernández Cubas," pp. 233-245.
Journal of Narrative Techniques, winter, 1997, Robert C. Spires, "Discursive Constructs and Spanish Fiction of the 1980s," pp. 128-146.
Letras Femininas, Volume 8, number 2, 1982, Catherine G. Bellver, "Two New Women Writers from Spain," pp. 3-7; spring-fall, 1989, Lynn K. Talbot, "Journey into the Fantastic: Cristina Fernández Cubas' Los altillos de Brumal," pp. 37-47; summer, 1992, p. 177.
Letras Peninsulares, spring, 1995, Susan Lucan Dobrian, "Echo's Revenge in Three Spanish Narratives by Women," pp. 169-179.
Library Journal, July, 1996, Norma Montero, review of El columpio, p. 94.
Mester, fall, 1991, interview with Fernández Cubas, pp. 157-165.
Monographic Review/Revista Monografica, Volume 3, numbers 1-2, 1987, Phyllis Zatlin, "Tales from Fernández Cubas: Adventure in the Fantastic," pp. 107-118; Volume 4, 1988, p. 460; Volume 8, 1992, Kathleen M. Glenn, "Gothic Indecipherability and Doubling in the Fiction of Cristina Fernández Cubas," pp. 125-141, Julie Gleue, "The Epistemological and Ontological Implications in Cristina Fernández Cubas's El año de Gracia," pp. 142-156, Jose Ortega, "La dimension fantastica en los cuentos de Fernández Cubas," pp. 157-163; 1996, Kay Pritchett, "Cristina Fernández Cubas' 'Con Agatha en Estambul': Traveling into Mist and Mystery," pp. 247-257.
Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispanicos, winter, 2000, Jessica Aileen Folkart, "Desire, Doubling, and Difference in Cristina Fernández Cubas's El angulo del horror," pp. 343-362.
Romance Languages Annual, Volume 2, 1990, Kathleen M. Glenn, "Authority and Marginality in Three Contemporary Spanish Narratives," pp. 426-430; Volume 4, 1992, pp. 460-465; Volume 9, 1997, Kathleen M. Glenn, "Narrative Designs in Cristina Fernández Cubas's 'Mundo', " pp. 501-504.
Siglo XX/Twentieth Century, Volume 11, numbers 1-2, 1993, John B. Margenot, "Parody and Self-Consciousness in Cristina Fernández Cubas's El año de Gracia," pp. 71-87.
Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature, summer, 1992, Catherine G. Bellver, "El año de Gracia and the Displacement of the Word," pp. 221-232.
World Literature Today, spring, 1995, Kay Pritchett, review of Con Agatha in Estabul, p. 327.*