Nada by Carmen Laforet

Nada by Carmen Laforet

Spanish fiction

Translator Edith Grossman

Carmen Laforet is one of the great writers of modern Spanish fiction this was her début novel .Born in Barcelona in her early days she moved to Canary islands ,returning to Barcelona at 18 to study and she stayed with family .In 1944 penned this novel aged just 23 .She went on to writer a number of other novels but this her début is probably the best known and loved .she died in 2004 aged 83 .In spain the phrase Después de Nada is used a lot and came from her book .

So Nada (meaning nothing in spanish ) ,Follows Andrea a poor  orphan 18-year-old as she travel from the countryside to spend time with her family in the Catalan capital Barcelona ,she hasn’t seen them for years but knows they used to be well to do when she was young .Her  hope  is to study literature .So we see her arrive in the dead of night and enter the household of her Grandmother .This household with her aunties and uncles living there as well ,is a strange one to say the least .We see how she changes from a shy country girl into a modern woman .The family she expected  them to be well off but because the civil war they are broke .Reduced to living in a small room in the Calle de Airbau .They are all in there with the piano and  the uncle loves to play it .Andrea is shocked by how her family are living post civil war  .Another aunt runs away to join a cult ,her uncle Roman commits suicide .Andrea makes friends at university .We also glimpse the broken city of Barcelona that is trying to pick itself up off the floor after the civil war with the heart of the city a war-torn place .Jo Labanyi in her very short intro to Spanish fiction says she was shocked that due to the uncle Roman suicide as in 1945 when the book came out it was still illegal in Spain .Plus it isn’t very Franco friendly

In front of me was a foyer illuminated by a single weak light bulb in one of the arms of the magnificent lamp,dirty with cobwebs ,that hung from the ceiling .a dark background of articles of furniture piled one on top of the other as if the household were in the middle of moving .And in the foreground the black -white blotch of a decrepit little old woman in a nightgown ,a shawl thrown around her shoulder ,I wanted to believe I’d come to the wrong flat ,but good-natured old woman wore a smile of such sweet kindness that I was certain she was my grandmother .

Andrea entering her families home in Barcelona .

Now the book is told completely in first person narrative we see Andrea life through her eyes ,we see her life change was she interacts family ,they all have their problems and in a way this gives Andrea the strength to become a strong women over the year she spent in the house .It’s hard to pull of first person narrative with out it feel self-indulgent which this never does .I feel the strength of this book is that it is probably quite near to the writers own life she went to Barcelona spend time with her family .She was a very young woman at the time she wrote this and that is the made a lot of in reviews I read after I read the book .I did worry some times the feeling of a writer being a L’Enfant Terrible l,this is the feeling about Carmen Laforet can be of putting but this is a neatly written book of a young girls journey into womanhood and naturally this translation which is the third time into English works ,it should it is from Edith Grossman regarded by many as the finest translator from Spanish in the late 20th century .Andrea is a wonderful creation her life was a delight to read I thoroughly enjoyed the book .The book seems to be maybe an early example of the tremedismo style of Spanish literature that dealt with the civil and post civil war period championed by writers such as Cela

Have you read this book ?

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gaskella
    Jul 21, 2012 @ 12:20:44

    I haven’t read it, but I do own it … glad to know it’s good.

    Reply

  2. Tony
    Jul 21, 2012 @ 12:22:09

    Not one I’ve read, but it sounds excellent. Also, I’ve heard good things about Grossman, so that’s another bonus point🙂

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Jul 22, 2012 @ 11:48:07

      She is good but she cost a lot to employ on a book so this one was a suprise as it had been translated but it worked may try another if I see it to compare ,all the best stu

      Reply

  3. Liburuak
    Jul 21, 2012 @ 17:11:04

    I’ve read it and really enjoyed it. I read it in Spanish and found her style very pleasant because it flows very easily. I’m glad to hear the English translation works well, too.
    If you’re interested in Spanish post-civil war fiction I would highly recommend Camilo José Cela’s “The Hive” (La colmena). I think it’s excellent, but it seems like the English translation is difficult to get a hold of.

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Jul 22, 2012 @ 11:49:34

      I ve been trying to get some Cela for a while sure I ll see some soon ,the hive is hard to get hold of know another had just come out from dalkey archive by him ,all the best stu

      Reply

  4. parrish lantern
    Jul 21, 2012 @ 20:42:49

    with Grossman translating, it definitely adds appeal, her book on translation is great.

    Reply

  5. amanda
    Jul 22, 2012 @ 00:45:43

    This sounds good. I’m finding myself increasingly interested in fiction relating to Franco-era Spain, so I may have to add this to the list.

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Jul 22, 2012 @ 11:51:38

      I love Franco era books to such a dark time ,I recommend the cercas that came out last year a non fiction but shows how Franco still had effect after he died ,all the best stu

      Reply

  6. Heather
    Jul 22, 2012 @ 00:51:50

    I don’t think i have read any Spanish books. I have added this to my reading list. Thank.

    Reply

  7. bythefirelight
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 16:12:13

    This was the first Novel I read in Spanish and I loved it. It is a great starter novel. It does totally capture Spain after the war and when ever I’m in Barcelona I can’t help but think of the Andrea wandering around in the rain. I wish she could have written another of that quality, but Laforet seemed only to have this one in her.
    -p

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Aug 24, 2012 @ 11:40:57

      Yes richard read another by her and came to same conclusion ,a lot of wrtiters that write a great book when young find it hard to match up to it sagan maybe another example ,all the best stu

      Reply

  8. Lucy (@tolstoytherapy)
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 21:24:42

    I had to translate a section from this book for a university assignment – it’d be good to read the whole thing some day! Thanks for the review and wider context.

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Feb 06, 2013 @ 02:45:31

      I think this is considered best translation of this book , as it had been translated a couple of times before ,a wonderful book ,bet you enjoyed doing a translation of part of it all the best stu

      Reply

  9. Claire 'Word by Word'
    May 04, 2014 @ 20:20:19

    Thanks for pointing us back to this review Stu, a great review and comments.

    Reply

  10. Trackback: Nada by Carmen Laforet, tr. by Edith Grossman | JacquiWine's Journal

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