Ana María Matute, “Familiar Demons”

When she died in June 2014, Ana María Matute (1925-2014, Wikipedia) left behind an unfinished novel that was published three months later with the title Demonios familiares [Familiar demons].

The publisher’s summary is quite short, but it is also a short novel (184 p.): “Demonios familiares is a history of love and guilt, of treason and friendship, in the purest of its author’s style. It is set in a small Spanish inland town in 1936, with a female protagonists who quickly becomes unforgettable.”

Ana Rodríguez Fischer writes in her review that, though unfinished, the novel had been an advanced project as is evidenced by a clear structure, a continuing rhythm in the narration, and clear signs that the author had begun a thorough pruning process. It starts with a fire at the convent where the adolescent Eva aspires to become a novice, which forces her to return home to her father, the Colonel. As the novel moves forward, the Spanish Civil War retreats into the background, whereas the narrator concentrates on a “tangle of feelings” that accompany the family life to the moment where a secret event that happened long before is suddenly brought to light and shakes the established order. The novel is divided into two parts – “La ventana de los halcones” [the falcons’ window], when the secret is still kept, and “Vértigo”, when the secret has been revealed -and the reviewer hints at elements of “rite of passage”, a friendship of close friends and a growing ethical conflict for Eva. The reader doesn’t get to know the ending, but Matute’s writing is described as spellbinding (“sortilege”).

Ana María Matute, author of 15 novels and nearly 30 books of short and children’s stories, was the third woman to enter the Royal Spanish Academy and the third woman to win the Cervantes Prize. A lot of younger writers were encouraged and influenced by her work, among them Jenn Díaz.

SOURCES: PlanetaEl País, Sept. 29, 2014

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