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Carmen Laforet

Carmen Laforet Carmen Laforet[1†]

Carmen Laforet (Barcelona, 6 September 1921 – Madrid, 28 February 2004) was a Spanish author who wrote in the period after the Spanish Civil War[1†]. An important European writer, her works contributed to the school of Existentialist Literature[1†][2†][3†]. Her first novel, Nada (1944; “Nothingness”; Eng. trans.), continued the Spanish tremendismo literary style begun by Camilo José Cela with his novel, La familia de Pascual Duarte[1†][2†][3†]. This novel won the first Nadal Prize, bringing her international recognition[1†][4†][1†].

Early Years and Education

Carmen Laforet was born on September 6, 1921, in Barcelona, Spain[4†][1†]. However, when she was just two years old, her family moved to the Canary Islands, where she spent her childhood[4†][1†]. This early relocation played a significant role in shaping her worldview and literary style[4†][1†].

At the age of 12, Laforet experienced a profound personal loss with the death of her mother[4†][1†]. Her father subsequently remarried, but Laforet and her siblings did not get along with their stepmother[4†][1†]. These experiences, both the loss of her mother and the strained relationship with her stepmother, would later be reflected in her literature[4†][1†].

In 1939, at the age of 18, Laforet left the Canary Islands for Barcelona[4†][1†]. There, she began her higher education, studying Philosophy at the University of Barcelona[4†][1†]. She lived with relatives during this time, an experience that provided her with a unique perspective on the post-war social and cultural landscape of Spain[4†][1†].

In 1942, Laforet moved to Madrid to study Law at the Universidad Complutense[4†][1†]. However, during her second year, she made the decision to withdraw from her classes to devote herself entirely to writing[4†][1†]. This period marked the beginning of her literary career and culminated in the creation of her first novel, Nada[4†][1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Carmen Laforet’s career began in earnest when she withdrew from her Law studies at the Universidad Complutense to devote herself entirely to writing[1†]. Between January and September 1944, she penned her first novel, Nada, which earned Editorial Destino’s Nadal Prize in its first year of publication (1945)[1†]. This novel of female adolescent development is considered a classic in 20th-century Spanish literature and deals with themes such as existentialism and the adolescent search for identity[1†].

Laforet maintained a very distrustful relationship with her critics, especially after she struggled to match the outstanding critical acclaim of her first novel[1†]. However, she did publish a total of five novels[1†]. The 1952 publication of La Isla y los demonios, which is essentially the prequel to Nada[1†]; her 1955 La mujer nueva, motivated by her re-discovery of her Catholic faith and recipient of the Premio Menorca[1†]; her 1963 La insolación, the initial installment of the trilogy Tres pasos fuera del tiempo[1†]; and finally the posthumous psychological novel Al volver la esquina, published in May 2004[1†].

Following her visit to the U.S. as a guest of the State Department in 1965, Laforet published her travel notes entitled Parelelo 35 in 1967[1†]. Her friendship with fellow Spanish author and U.S. resident Ramón J. Sender was revealed in a series of letters published in 2003 entitled Puedo contar contigo[1†]. She also authored short stories, the majority of which were published in a 1952 collection entitled La muerta, as well as novelettes that were published in a 1954 collection entitled La llamada[1†].

Laforet was a pioneer. She was an influence on Miguel Delibes and the Madrid realist writers of the 1950s[1†][5†]. She paved the way for a generation of women novelists - such as Carmen Martín Gaite, Ana María Matute - who rebelled against the degradation of postwar Spain[1†][5†].

First Publication of Her Main Works

Carmen Laforet’s literary career was marked by several significant works that have had a lasting impact on Spanish literature[1†][4†][6†][5†]. Here are some of her main works:

Laforet also authored short stories, the majority of which were published in a 1952 collection entitled La muerta, as well as novelettes that were published in a 1954 collection entitled La llamada[1†]. Four additional short stories — El infierno, Recién casados, El alivio, and El secreto de la gata — were published in various journals[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Carmen Laforet’s work, particularly her novel “Nada”, has been the subject of extensive analysis and evaluation[7†][8†][5†]. Written when she was just 23 years old, “Nada” is considered one of the most important European novels of the 20th century[7†][8†].

Laforet’s writing style is described as simultaneously calming and unnerving, eliciting both pity and unease[7†]. Her narrative is direct and fresh, composed of short, clear sentences[7†][5†]. This style introduced a realistic eye and existential spirit into the climate of bombast that pervaded Spain after the civil war[7†][5†].

“Nada” is a coming-of-age story that parallels the struggles Spaniards experienced with the pain of an adolescent girl[7†]. The novel begins with Andrea, the protagonist, alone at a Barcelona train station after traveling to the city to attend a university[7†]. What she encounters is a demented and depressing family waiting to welcome her, and potentially destroy her, with their dysfunctional structure[7†].

The novel is set in a post-war Barcelona that is defeated and dilapidated[7†][8†]. The city and the apartment on Calle de Aribau become characters in their own right, reflecting the Franco regime’s isolationist and oppressive control over its inhabitants[7†].

Laforet’s achievement is remarkable given her age and the challenges she faced as a woman to overcome the sexist bias of her time and secure her place in the literary canon[7†][8†]. Several Latin American writers, including Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Carlos Fuentes, credit “Nada” with forcing them to reconsider writing from Spain[7†][8†].

Personal Life

Carmen Laforet was born in Barcelona, Spain, but at the age of 2, she moved with her family to the Canary Islands where she spent her childhood[1†]. At age 12, she suffered the loss of her mother, and her father subsequently married a woman disliked by Laforet and her siblings[1†]. These experiences were portrayed in much of her literature[1†].

In 1939, at the age of 18, Laforet left for Barcelona where she studied Philosophy at the University of Barcelona while living with relatives[1†]. In 1942, she departed for Madrid where she studied Law at the Universidad Complutense[1†]. During her second year, she withdrew from classes to devote herself completely to writing[1†].

In early 1946, Laforet married Manuel González Cerezales, a journalist, and gave birth to their first child that November[1†][9†]. Marriage and motherhood limited the time and energy she could give to writing, and for three years she wrote almost nothing[1†][9†]. She had five children: Marta Cerezales, Cristina Cerezales, Silvia Cerezales, Manuel Cerezales, and Agustín Cerezales[1†][10†].

During her later years, Laforet suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, eventually losing the ability to speak[1†]. She died in Madrid on February 28, 2004[1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Carmen Laforet’s legacy in the literary world is significant. Her novel “Nada” is considered a classic in 20th-century Spanish literature[1†]. It deals with themes such as existentialism and the adolescent search for identity[1†]. Despite the struggle to match the outstanding critical acclaim of her first novel, Laforet continued to publish a total of five novels[1†].

Laforet was a pioneer and an influence on Miguel Delibes and the Madrid realist writers of the 1950s[1†][5†]. She paved the way for a generation of women novelists - such as Carmen Martín Gaite, Ana María Matute - who rebelled against the degradation of postwar Spain[1†][5†]. Her works are still read and studied today for their narrative, political, and existential elements[1†][4†].

Since Laforet’s death on February 28, 2004, renewed critical attention has focused on her lesser-known works[1†]. However, the public will always remember her for “Nada”, as evidenced by the Spanish phrase, “Después de Nada, nada”, or "After Nada, nothing"[1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Carmen Laforet [website] - link
  2. Goodreads - Author: Carmen Laforet (Author of Nada) [website] - link
  3. Wikiwand - Carmen Laforet - Wikiwand [website] - link
  4. Britannica - Carmen Laforet: Spanish author [website] - link
  5. The Guardian - Carmen Laforet [website] - link
  6. LibraryThing - Author - Carmen Laforet [website] - link
  7. eNotes - Nada Analysis [website] - link
  8. The Conversation - Guide to the Classics: Carmen Laforet’s Nada captures longing and desire in post-war Spain [website] - link
  9. Encyclopedia.com - Laforet, Carmen (1921—) [website] - link
  10. Encyclopedia.com - Laforet, Carmen 1921–2004 [website] - link
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