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Gaite, Carmen Martín 1925-2000

GAITE, Carmen Martín 1925-2000

PERSONAL: Born 1925; died 2000.

CAREER: Novelist, poet, and essayist. Recorded poems on audio cassette Poems, for Plaza & Janés Editores.

AWARDS, HONORS: National prize for literature (Spain), 1978, for El cuarto de atrás; national prize for literature (Spain), 1994, for La reina de las nieves.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

El balneario, 1955.

Entre visillos, 1958, translation by Frances M. López-Morillas published as Behind the Curtain, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

El cuarto de atrás, Ediciones Destino (Barcelona, Spain), 1978, translation by Helen R. Lane published as The Back Room, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.

Caperucita en Manhattan, Siruela (Madrid, Spain), 1990.

Nubosidad variable, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1992, translation by Margaret Jull Costa published as Variable Cloud, Harvill (London, England), 1995.

La reina de las nieves, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1994, translation by Margaret Costa published as Fallen Angel, Harvill (London, England), 1999.

Lo raro es vivir, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1996, translation by Anne McLean published as Living's the Strange Thing, Harvill Press (London, England), 2004.

Irse de casa, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1998.

Cuéntame, edited by Emma Martinell Gifré, Espasa Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1999.

Los parentescos, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 2001.

SHORT STORIES

Retahílas, Ediciones Destino (Barcelona, Spain), 1974.

Cuentos completos, Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1978.

Cuentos completos y un monólogo, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1994.

Retahílas, Crítica (Barcelona, Spain), 2003.

FANTASY

El castillo de las tres murallas (also see below), Lumen (Barcelona, Spain), 1981.

El pastel del diablo; dibujos de Núria Salvatella (also see below), Lumen (Barcelona, Spain), 1985.

Dos relatos fantásticos (contains El castillo de las tres murallas and El pastel del diablo), Lumen (Barcelona, Spain), 1986.

OTHER

El proceso de Macanaz; historia de un empapelamiento, Editorial Moned y Crédito (Madrid, Spain), 1970, published as Macanaz, otro paciente de la inquisición, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1975, reprinted, Espasa Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1999.

Usos amorosos del dieciocho en España, Siglo Veintiundo de España Editores (Madrid, Spain), 1972, translation by Maria G. Tomsich published as Love Customs in Eighteenth-Century Spain, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991.

La búsqueda de interlocutor y otras búsquedas, Nostromo (Madrid, Spain), 1973, portions published as La búsqueda de interlocutor, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 2000.

Ritmo lento (for children), Destino (Barcelona, Spain), 1974.

A rachas (poems), Ayuso (Madrid, Spain), 1976.

Fragmentos de interior, Ediciones Destino (Madrid, Spain), 1976.

El conde de Guadalhorce, su época y su labor, Colegio de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos (Madrid, Spain), 1977.

Las ataduras; prólogo de Ana Ma. Moix (young adult fiction), Barral Editores (Barcelona, Spain), 1978.

El cuento de nunca acabar: apuntes sobre la narración, el amor y la mentira, Trieste (Madrid, Spain), 1983.

Desde la ventana: enfoque femenino de la literatura española (criticism), Espasa Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1987.

Usos amorosos de la postguerra española, Anagrama (Madrid, Spain), 1987, translation by Margaret E.W. Jones published as Courtship Customs in Postwar Spain, Bucknell University Press (Lewisburg, PA) 2004.

Agua pasada: artículos, prólogos y discursos, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1993.

(With Joan L. Brown) Conversaciones creadoras (textbook and phrase book), D.C. Heath and Co. (Lexington, MA), 1994, 2nd edition, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.

Esperando el porvenir: homenaje a Ignacio Aldecoa (biography), Ediciones Siruela (Madrid, Spain), 1994.

Hilo a la cometa: La visión, la memoria y el sueño, edited by Emma Martinell, Espasa Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1995.

Dos cuentos maravillosos, Ediciones Siruela (Madrid, Spain), 1997.

Cuadernos de todo (notebooks and sketches), Areté (Barcelona, Spain), 2002.

Pido la palabra, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 2002.

Contributor to Las Salamancas para curiosos y viajeros, Diputación de Salamanca (Salamanca, Spain), 1990.

SIDELIGHTS: An important novelist in Spain, Carmen Martín Gaite began writing in the 1950s when she was in her mid-twenties. Many of her works focus on dreams versus reality, the power of literature, and life in Spain. In addition to novels, Gaite has also published several nonfiction works of note prior to her health in 2000.

Entre visillos was Gaite's first long novel. The plot focuses on a sixteen-year-old girl named Natalia who faces social limitations in her community in Spain as she reaches womanhood. Other women, such as her sister Mercedes, lose themselves by conforming to local expectations. Some women do not conform, including Elivira, who lives in a fantasy world she constructs though even she undermines her talent as an artist. Over the course of the novel, Natalia learns how to not conform and improve her self-esteem with help from a teacher named Pablo. One critic saw a link between Gaite and Natalia. Writing in the Symposium, Marsha S. Collins commented: "this is the tale of Natalia and Pablo, but it is also the story of Carmen Martín Gaite, who defied the destructive pressures of a disciplinary society to inscribe the space of female identity in Entre visillos."

Another novel, which was a literary success as well as a best seller in Spain, also explores the life of women. Published in Spanish as Nubosidad variable, it was also translated into English as Variable Cloud. At the novel's center are two women, Sofia and Mariana, who were close friends for much of their early life. Their friendship ended when they unknowingly fell in love the same man. After a break of thirty years, the women reconnect and learn that they have not done what they could have with their lives.

Gaite emphasizes the idea that literature is important in creating memories in Nubosidad variable. Commenting on the English translation, Trudi Tate, writing in Quadrant, suggested that Gaite succeeds in this area. As Tate wrote, "the healing power of story-telling is a commonplace of literature and psychoanalysis, but Martín Gaite manages to make it seem new, perhaps she is so fascinated by the role of the imagined reader, whose phantom presence shapes the writing."

As in Nubosidad variable, La reina de las nieves also has a focus on literature, in this case, a fairy tale. Translated by Margaret Costa as Fallen Angel, the book is set in the 1970s, and the protagonist, Leonard Villaba, is a prisoner who has been recently released. He has no relationship with his parents who, he learns, have died in a car wreck, so he seeks out the past by going to Madrid. In the story, Leonard finds solace by reading The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen. In a review of Fallen Angel, Booklist contributor Marlene Chamberlain stated that "what is unique is that Gaite takes us … seamlessly through the fragments of Leonard Villaba's existence." A Publishers Weekly reviewer also responded positively, concluding that "Gaite delivers an engrossing tale inhabited by deeply human characters and passionate landscapes. The novel glistens with intelligence and heart."

Writing and fantasy also play a role in Gaite's El cuarto de atrás, which was translated as The Back Room. Though the novel has a focus on reality and dreams, the unconscious and conscious, and how writing is done, it is also influenced by the effect the oppressive regime of General Francisco Franco had on Spain, especially on the middle class. The story has at its center an author, somewhat based on Gaite, who is roused from her sleep by the spirit if a male journalist. Critiquing the translation in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Brian Budzynski called the text "hypnotic" and commented that "The Back Room is an exquisite creation, elegant, smart, and sad—a remarkable story of the nature of a consciousness."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Welles, Marcia L., and Mirella Servodidio, editors, From Fiction to Metafiction: Essays in Honor of Carmen Martín Gaite, Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies (Lincoln, NE), 1983.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1999, Marlene Chamberlain, review of The Farewell Angel, p. 1921.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2004, review of Living's the Strange Thing, p. 551.

Publishers Weekly, May 20, 1996, review of Variable Cloud, p. 240; June 7, 1999, review of The Farewell Angel, p. 76; May 29, 2000, review of The Back Room, p. 52.

Quadrant, May, 2000, Trudi Tate, review of Variable Cloud, p. 85.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 2001, Brian Budzynski, review of The Back Room, p. 199.

Symposium, summer, 1997, Marsha S. Collins, "Inscribing the Space of Female Identity in Carmen Martín Gaite's Entre visillos," p. 66.

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