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Matute (Ausejo), Ana María

MATUTE (Ausejo), Ana María

Nationality: Spanish. Born: Barcelona, 26 July 1926. Education: Damas Negras French Nuns College and schools in Barcelona and Madrid. Family: Married Ramón Eugenio de Goicoechea in 1952 (separated 1963); one son. Career: Member of the Turia literary group, with Juan Goytisolo and others, Barcelona, 1951; visiting professor, Indiana University, Bloomington, 1965-66, and University of Oklahoma, Norman, 1969; writer-in-residence, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1978-79. Lives in Barcelona. Awards: Café Gijón prize, 1952; Planeta prize, 1954; National Critics' prize, for novel, 1959; March Foundation grant, 1959; Cervantes prize, 1959; Nadal prize, 1960; Lazarillo prize, for children's writing, 1965; Fastenrath prize, 1969. Member: Honorary Fellow, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese; Hispanic Society of America, 1960 (corresponding member).

Publications

Short Stories

Fiesta al noroeste (novella). 1953.

La pequeña vida (novella). 1953.

Los cuentos, Vagabundos. 1956.

Los niños tontos. 1956.

El tiempo. 1957.

Tres y un sueño. 1961.

Historias de la Artámila. 1961.

El arrepentido. 1961.

Algunos muchachos y otros cuentos. 1968; as The Heliotrope Wall and Other Stories, 1989.

La vírgen de Antioquía y otros relatos. 1990.

Novels

Los Abel. 1948.

Pequeño teatro. 1954.

En esta tierra. 1955.

Los hijos muertos. 1958; as The Lost Children, 1965.

Los mercaderes: Primera memoria. 1959; as Awakening, 1963; asSchool of the Sun, 1963.

Los soldados lloran de noche. 1964.

La trampa. 1969.

A la mitad del camino. 1961.

El río. 1963.

La torre vigía. 1971.

Olvidado rey Gudu. 1980.

Diablo vuelve a casa. 1980.

Other

El país de la pizarra (for children). 1957.

Paulina, el mundo, y las estrellas (for children). 1960.

El saltamontes verde: El aprendiz (stories; for children). 1960.

Libro de juegos para los niños de los otros, photographs by JaimeBuesa. 1961.

Caballito loco; Carnivalito (stories; for children). 1962.

El polizón del "Ulises" (for children). 1965.

Obra completa. 5 vols., 1971-77.

Sólo un pie descalzo (for children). 1983.

Sino España. 1991.

Translator, Frederick; Nadarín (for children), by Leo Lionni. 2 vols., 1986.

*

Critical Studies:

"Antipathetic Fallacy: The Hostile World of Matute's Novels," in Romance Quarterly 13 (Supplement), 1967, and The Literary World of Matute, 1970, both by Margaret E. W. Jones; The World of Matute by M. Weitzner, 1970; Matute by Rosa Roma, 1971; Matute by Janet W. Díaz, 1971; "Forms of Alienation in Matute's La trampa " by Elizabeth Ordóñez, in Journal of Spanish Studies: 20th Century, 4, 1976; "Adolescent Friendship in Two Contemporary Spanish Novels" by Phyllis Zatlin-Boring, in Hispanófila 60, 1977; "Retrospection as a Technique in Matute's Los hijos muertos and En esta tierra " by J. Townsend Shelby, in Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 14(2), 1980; "Trace-Reading the Story of María/Matute in Los mercaderes " by Michael Scott Doyle, in Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 19(2), 1985; "Privation in Matute's Fiction for Children," in Symposium 39(2), 1985, "Codes of Exclusion, Modes of Equivocation: Matute's Primera memoria, " in Ideologies and Literature 1(1-2), 1985, and "Stranger than Fiction: Fantasy in Short Stories by Matute, Rodoreda, Riera," in Monographic Review/Revista Monográfica 4, 1988, all by Geraldine Cleary Nichols; " Los hijos muertos: The Spanish Civil War as a Perpetuator of Death" by Eunice D. Myers, in Letras Femeninas 12(1-2), 1986; "From Freedom to Enclosure: 'Growing Down' in Matute's Primera memoria " by Lucy Lee-Bonanno, in Kentucky Philological Review 13, 1986; "Notes of Hans Christian Andersen Tales in Matute's Primera memoria " by Suzanne Gross Reed, in Continental, Latin-American and Francophone Women Writers, edited by Eunice D. Myers and Ginette Adamson, 1987; "Two Mourners for the Human Spirit: Matute and Flannery O'Connor" by Mary S. Vásquez, in Monographic Review/Revista Monográfica 4, 1988; "The Fictional World of Matute" by Janet Pérez, in Women Writers of Contemporary Spain, edited by Joan L. Brown, 1991; The Literary World of Ana Maria Matute, edited by Joaquin Roy, 1993.

* * *

One of five children of a prosperous Catalan industrialist, Ana María Matute was deeply scarred by the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), an obsessive motif in her fiction. Her social consciousness results from childhood experience of bombardments, hunger, factional violence, political and social terrorism, and religious persecution, combined with the discovery of rural poverty and social injustice (during summers spent at her maternal grandparents' farm in the backward, mountainous countryside of Old Castile, a frequent setting for her stories).

Los Abel (The Abel Family) contains constants of much Matute fiction: the Cain-Abel archetype (violence between brothers, symbolizing the Spanish Civil War), rural Castile's backwardness and misery, childhood and adolescence, rites of passage, divided families, solitary and alienated youth, and inept, frustrated, bitter adults. Her early novella, Fiesta al noroeste (Celebration in the Northwest), surprisingly mature and complex, investigates caciquismo (rural political bossism) and traditional Spanish social structure via the landlord's rambling confession of rape, near-incest, avarice, and betrayal. Conflict between idealism and materialism, another Matute constant, appears most clearly in her children's tales (often recalling Hans Christian Andersen): El saltamontes verde (The Green Grasshopper) and Caballito loco (Little Crazy Horse).

Los niños tontos (The Stupid Children), Matute's most lyric collection, contains sketches painting children and their imaginary, emotional worlds. Termed prose poems by critics, these 21 brief tales portray misunderstood, rejected, rebellious, or unloved children at odds with the world, victims of their own imaginations. Many are sick, abnormal, or deformed, often treated with great cruelty or indifference. The author's tender handling ranges from lyric indirectness to understated matter-of-factness, without separating fantasy from reality. Twelve (possibly 14) sketches involve the deaths of children, due usually to psychological rather than physical causes, symbolizing the loss of innocence or passage to adulthood. By contrast, Libro de juegos para los niños de los otros (Book of Games for Others' Children) looks realistically at how street children live.

El tiempo (Time) contains a novella earlier published separately, La pequeña vida (The Small Life), presenting two orphaned adolescents' difficult existence in a fishing village. When their only human warmth—their friendship—is threatened, they attempt to flee together but are run down by a train in the fog. Other tales often anthologized include "The Good Children," whose eight-year-old narrator is considered shocking and reprehensible until she learns the art of deception, and "Fausto," in which an orphan girl, forced by her grandfather to get rid of her sick cat, spontaneously establishes a parallel between the "useless" dead pet and the old man, auguring his demise. Time (existential being-toward-death) is obsessive, and social elements loom large in this collection, with hunger, child labor, loneliness, and misery appearing repeatedly. Drunkenness, lonely old age, the importance of illusions, adolescent infatuation, first love, and lies that unexpectedly prove true are other repetitive themes.

The 22 stories of Historias de la Artámila (Tales of Artámila) possess a common setting (the mountain village of Matute's childhood summers), and most portray social or economic problems of the peasant sharecroppers. Others describe an illusion or its loss, an awakening, injustice, disappointment; the general tone is melancholic. Protagonists are usually children or adolescents, invalids or orphans, isolated, lonely, alienated, or rejected; the few adults are in unhappy relationships, unable to communicate, and burdened by guilt. The relativity of wealth, connections between love and hate, and the total separation between the worlds of childhood and adulthood are major themes. Matute's stories evoke the atmosphere and structure of the folktale or combine realism with the marvelous and supernatural.

El arrepentido (The Repentant One) lacks linking motifs or common setting; repentance is not important, although most stories concern something regrettable: socioeconomic injustice, the civil war, terminal illness, suicide, deceit, poverty, children victimized by juvenile gangs, peer pressure, egotism, stereotyping, and false charity. The circus, traveling players, mountebanks, and the fascination of itinerant entertainers are frequent Matute motifs found here. Deliberate juxtapositions of opposites (life-death, joy-grief, lyricism-the grotesque) create ironic and artistic effect.

Tres y un sueño (Three [Tales] and One Dream), three independent novellas, examine the "dream" of childhood from the perspective of the child who grows up, one who dies, and one who refuses to grow up psychologically although maturing physically. The unreal atmosphere evokes the world of fairy tales and fantasy, suggesting reason is incompatible with the magical childhood world.

Algunos muchachos y otros cuentos (The Heliotrope Wall and Other Stories) features new elements making this collection a milestone in Matute's evolution. Each tale highlights an epigraph, an enigmatic commentary on what follows. Most narrate a crime (usually murder or arson) motivated by hate, envy, or mixed emotions, recreated lyrically, vaguely, and allusively, barely hinting at violence. Emotional background and climate, motivation, and characters' situation are nebulous, slightly out-of-focus, requiring a sophisticated reader. Fantastic and supernatural touches combine with realistic settings and down-to-earth personalities or characters of mythic dimensions. Fragmentary technique and hallucinatory narrative suggest nightmares or drug-induced hallucination, constituting puzzles readers must reconstruct. Fantasy and social preoccupations, two extremes of Matute's writing, combine with familiar themes and heightened technical mastery in this most significant collection.

—Janet Pérez

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