Madres e hijas.
In this provocative anthology, Laura Freixas brings together stories about the mother-daughter relationship by a variety of twentieth-century Spanish authors. Freixas points out in her prologue that, in Spain, numerous books exist highlighting the bonds between father and son, mother and son, and father and daughter. In contrast, writing on mothers and daughters is relatively scarce.
In anticipated response to possible objections to an anthology limited to women's writing, Freixas insists that those who allege that female authors are completely integrated into the literary scene and, therefore, require no special consideration, are simply wrong. Although over 50 percent of Spain's reading public consists of women, she says, a simple perusal of catalogs from popular Spanish publishers confirms that women author only a fraction of Spain's books. Furthermore, they tend to excel only in certain kinds of writing, most notably, biography.
Madres e hijas consists of fourteen selections by radically diverse writers and covers the entire twentieth century. Freixas has included well-known, established authors whose work has moved into the twentieth-century canon--Carmen Laforet, Carmen Martin Gaite, Ana Maria Matute, Esther Tusquets, Soledad Puertolas--as well as younger writers, such as Almudena Grandes and Luisa Castro. One surprising choice is Cristina Peri Rossi, who was born in Montevideo but has been living in Spain since 1972.
Freixas has done an excellent job of choosing works that represent the negatives and ambiguities of the mother-daughter relationship, as well as the rewards. Not all of these stories are easy to read
In "Chinina Migone" Rosa Chancel (1898-1994) explores the terrible solitude that can exist within the nucleus of the family. In contrast, in "Al colegio" Carmen Laforet celebrates the continuity of human experience by reliving her own first day of school--with all its excitement and anxieties--the morning she takes her daughter to kindergarten for the first time.
Concern for the forgotten, marginalized elements of society has always characterized the fiction of Ana Maria Matute. In "Cuaderno pare cuentas" she depicts the sordid lives of a cook and her little girl. The child, at first alienated from her mother by a forced separation, eventually learns to love her, only to be brutally separated from her once again by unforeseen circumstances.
The anguish of separation is central to many of these stories, but in most cases the decisive element is death. In "De su ventana a la mia," Carmen Martin Gaite gives expression to a daughter's longing to overcome the scission caused by death. Much of Martin Gaite's work deals with problems of communication. In this story a grown woman dreams about writing a letter to her mother, long dead, in a secret code that unites the two of them, then remembers moments in which her mother and she would communicate without talking, through some mysterious telepathy. It is this obscure, enigmatic process that now makes it possible for mother and daughter to transcend time and place, communicating in spite of the abyss that separates them.
In "Ronda de noche" Ana Maria Moix presents a much less idealized vision of the mother-daughter relationship. Here, a daughter seeks to bridge the chasm between herself and her dead mother, who appears to her in recurring, nightmarish recollections. The younger woman struggles with these memories of her mother's weaknesses and demands, ultimately failing to free herself from her mother's strange grip on her.
What impresses the reader of these stories is their immediacy and authenticity. Each one elucidates some aspect of the highly intimate and paradoxical bond between mothers and daughters. Although the perspectives presented in this collection often conflict with and contradict one another, taken together, these stories form a fascinating tapestry that captures wonderfully the complexity of mother-daughter relationships.
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(ALPHABETICAL BY AUTHOR)
J. J. Benitez, Caballo de Troya (Vole. 1-5)(DR,E,ES) Fernando Butazzoni, La noehe que Gardel lloro en mi alcoba (U) Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (C) Frederick Forsyth, Icon (A,DR,ES,G) Jostein Gaarder, The World of Sophia (E) Eduardo Galeano, El futbol a sol y sombra (U) Robert Ludlum, The Apocalypse Watch (G) Maria Esther de Miguel, El general, el pintor y la dame (A) Carmen Posadas, Cinco moscas azules (V) Luis Racionero, La carcel del amor (V) Marcelo Rubens Paiva, Nao es tu Brasil (Br) Luis Sepulveda, Historia de una gaviota y del gato que le enseno a volar (Ch)
William Bennett, The Book of Virtues (Ch) Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Noticia de un secuestro (A,Br,Ch,DR,E,ES,U) Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (A,Br,Ch,C,V) Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991(C) Maria Auxiliadora Jara, Impunidad de un indulto (V) Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Manual del perfecto idiota latinoamericano (DR,E,ES,U) Prevention Magazine, Doctor's Book of Home Remedies (G)
A = Argentina; Br = Brazil; Ch = Chile; C = Colombia; DR = Dominican Republic; E = Ecuador; ES = El Salvador; G = Guyana; U = Uruguay; V = Venezuela.
(Only those countries that submit before deadline are included.)