Nada, means nothing in Spanish, is considered a modern literary classic in Spanish. Written in 1944, the first novel of the celebrated writer Carmen Laforet, at a young age of 23. The book has become an instant hit and was soon adapted to a film under the same name. There was another film version of the same novel by an Argentine director. The book in discussion is the new translation by Edith Grossman, released last year. There had been two earlier translations of this book into English by Charles F. Payne (in 1964) and Glafyra Ennis (in 1993). The book also has a good introduction of Laforet's writing and the early days of Franco regime by Mario Vargas Llosa.
Written after the devastating Spanish Civil war, during the initial days of the Franco Regime, this book reflects the Spanish society and its struggle and frustrations after the war. There is no war to be fought now, but the uneasy calm of the streets is now complimented the violent interior of the society.
Andrea, an 18 year old orphan arrives at Barcelona on a rainy day to pursue her education. She has to live in the mysterious house on Calle de Aribau, inhabited with her extended family. An artistic and depressed uncle Ramon , a controlling and single aunt Angustias, an abusive uncle painter Juan and his beautiful and gambler wife Gloria, Grand mother along with the maid and her dog lives in chaos and poverty. The house is on shambles and the skirmish and violence have shifted from the streets to inside of the house. There are no sympathy , closeness and endship among the members and Andrea had to endures the daily shouting , abusing , screaming, cursing rituals. She takes into wandering along the Barcelona streets in order to escape from all this and not to partake in the "actions" at home.
She befriends her classmates at the university and spends larger part of her time at her friend's place and on the streets of Barcelona. Aunt Angustias runs away from home to join the religious movement. Filth, violence, sadness and hunger controls the environment in the house as against the fun,food and freedom at the outside world. Laforet in her simple writing brings forward the differences in the middle class Spanish society and the outside world. During the one year of stay at their house, you also see the transform of an innocent eighteen year old girl from the village to an experienced, bold and strong woman. In other words, many critics view this as a coming of age novel.
According to this preview, Laforet's own life was similar to that of Andrea, and thus there seems to be many elements of her own life reflected in the events taken place in the novel. The struggled upbringing , away from her parents at Caymen Islands, her education in Barcelona etc are few examples. I get a feeling that the novel is more about the disintegration of the society and the depression, hope and disillusionment at the aftermath of the long civil war. Every character lives a life of isolation, trying to get out of this life, by running away or by taking their own life.
A very melancholic and sober novel, written as a first person narrative. A young woman from the remote village coming to Barcelona and trying to maintain her cool and sanity in a chaotic world.
Translated by Edith Grossman
Contributor Mario Vargas Llosa
Modern Library, 2008
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