Assess How Martin Gaite Takes on the Task of Confronting Recent History Both Aesthetically and Ethically in El Cuarto de Atrás.

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Assess how Martin Gaite takes on the task of confronting recent history both aesthetically and ethically in El cuarto de atrás.

El cuarto de atrás is Carmen Martin Gaite’s first post-Franco novel. Encompassing two very distinct genres, it is a fantastical novel, whilst in the same framework, a realist memoir of a woman growing up in post-war Spain. Through the use of the fantastic mode, the author approaches the real social history of the Civil War and post war period. This essay, will explore how Martin Gaite confronts this recent history, illustrating the hostile political environment of her youth and the anxiety it engendered. Through aesthetic techniques, particularly the fantastic mode, the novel facilitates a recollection of memories, which for many, were tarred with pain and anger. What we discover is that Martin Gaite’s intended purpose for her novel is not direct criticism of the fascist regime, but rather she aims to capture the collective memory of a generation, a memory which is often difficult to yield.

To begin, it necessary to understand Martin Gaite’s decision to write her novel in this way, by gaining a sense of the climate of opinion which prevailed among the leading writers at the end of Franco’s rule, the time when Martin Gaite wrote El cuarto de atrás. One of her contemporaries, the influential Juan Goytisolo, published an essay in 1967, which criticises the insipid realistic literature that was written in post-war Spain. He warns that Spanish novelists seem to have lost the ability to smile, despite belonging to a literary tradition that can draw on Cervantes and Larra. Goytisolo claims that, preoccupied with fighting Franco with words, he and his contemporaries have failed to serve either their cause or the wider interests of literature itself. In his essay, he writes:

Digámoslo con claridad: las generaciones venideras nos pedirán cuentas, sin duda, de nuestra actual conducta cívica, pero no tomarán a ésta en consideración...
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