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Search tags: spanish-literature
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review 2016-05-05 11:00
A Woman’s Misery in a Male World: The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazán
The House of Ulloa (Penguin Classics) - Emilia Pardo Bazán,Paul O'Prey
Los Pazos De Ulloa - Emilia Pardo Bazán

As I already remarked two years ago, when I wrote a biography of Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851-1921) on my main book blog Edith’s Miscellany (»»» read her author’s portrait there), the important Spanish author unlike her male counterparts from English-speaking countries and France began to fall into oblivion rather soon after she gained considerable fame for her work. Several of her books have been translated into English. Two of them are her most famous novel The House of Ulloa from 1886, which has been reissued in English translation only in 2013, and its often overlooked sequel Mother Nature from 1887. As an example of Spanish Naturalist writing above all the first deserves a closer look.

 

The House of Ulloa is set towards the end of the reign of Spanish Queen Isabel II, more precisely just before the liberal revolution of 1868. Father Julián Alvarez enters into service with Don Pedro Moscoso who has a remote country estate in Galicia and is generally known as marquis of Ulloa although in reality the title belongs to a cousin living in Santiago. The young priest is supposed to take care of the marquis’ affairs sorting papers in the library that are in a complete mess, but to his great dismay he finds that his private life is in disorder too and the estate threatened by ruin. In fact, his employer turns out to be a man of loose morals who openly consorts with his mistress Sabel working in the kitchen and treats his illegitimate four-year-old no better than his hounds. Moreover, his daily life is filled with little more than hunting and drinking. When pious and naïve Father Julián asks Don Pedro to change his ways, he admits that he can’t because his steward Primitivo, the father of Sabel, would never allow it and has the power to turn all peasants of the region against him. Nonetheless, the priest hopes to lead his employer back on the path of virtue and suggests that he passes some time in Santiago to choose a wife from his Cousin Manuel’s daughters. Thus he marries Marcelina, called Nucha, and brings her to the house of Ulloa as his wife and new mistress of the estate, but the discreet young woman soon realises that she isn’t accepted and that her husband goes on with his life as if she weren’t there. She suffers and makes Father Julián her confidant. The priest, though, is powerless and can only watch what is going on. Meanwhile, Don Pedro gets involved into politics which at the time is inseparably linked with corruption and risks his estate…

 

In this naturalist masterpiece the nineteenth-century author Emilia Pardo Bazán skilfully interweaves the main story of predominantly male decadence and corruption in politics as well as society with a feminist critique of a patriarchal world that submits women of all classes to a sexual double standard, violence and abuse in the name of Catholic religion and often with the help of clerics. Although the novel touches very serious topics and has a not less serious plot, its tone is not only gloomy like the wintry landscape of Galicia but also full of wit and clever irony. Moreover, it’s a timeless work of literature that has lost none of its power and meaning in this modern world. In other words, The House of Ulloa is one of those almost forgotten classics that deserve being read more widely outside its country of origin Spain.

 

Nota bene:

The original Spanish versions of Emilia Pardo Bazán’s work have long entered into the public domain and many of them as well as some older translations are available for free via the Virtual Library Miguel de Cervantes, on Feedbooks, on Project Gutenberg, on Wikisource, and several other sites of the kind.

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photo 2016-03-09 08:11
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review 2016-03-05 11:00
The Fight for Decent Working Conditions: The Metal of the Dead by Concha Espina
The Metal of the Dead - Concha Espina,Anna-Marie Aldaz
El Metal de Los Muertos - Concha Espina

This one is a Spanish classical novel written by a woman who is almost forgotten today although she was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times and she was very close to actually being awarded it at least twice.

 

The Metal of the Dead is often referred to as a socialist novel, a genre that was a bit in fashion in the early twentieth century. So shortly after the Russian Revolution socialist ideology had not yet a bad reputation, but people still set their hopes in it everywhere in the world including the mining area of Rio Tinto in Andalusia that is the main scene of this novel that is considered her best. The plot deals with a general strike that was called there around 1917... and the joys and sorrows of the miners and their families.

 

For the full review please click here to go to my main book blog Edith’s Miscellany.

 

The Metal of the Dead - Concha Espina,Anna-Marie Aldaz 

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2014-10-25 18:23
Don Quixote - Roberto González Echevarría,John Rutherford,Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Il vaut mieux gagner de quoi vivre en plaisant au plus grand nombre que gagner la gloire en ne plaisant qu'à quelques-uns.

Je vis en mourant, je brûle dans la glace, je tremble dans le feu, j'espère sans espoir, je reste quand je pars.

Une large et profonde rivière divisait en deux un vaste domaine. Sur cette rivière, on avait jeté un pont; au bout du pont, il y avait une potence et une salle où siégeaient en permanence quatre juges chargés d'appliquer la loi édictée par le propriétaire de la rivière, du pont et du domaine. Cette loi était ainsi conçue: "Quiconque traverse ce pont doit d'abord déclarer sous serment où il va, et pour quelle raison. S'il dit vrai, qu'on le laisse passer. S'il ment, qu'il soit pendu à cette potence, sans rémission." Bien qu'informés de cette loi rigoureuse, les gens n'en traversaient pas moins le pont; aussitôt qu'on reconnaissait qu'ils avaient dit vrai, on les laissait passer librement. Or, il s'est présenté le cas suivant: un homme, à qui on demandait de prêter serment, a juré qu'il traversait le pont pour aller se faire pendre à la potence qu'il y avait à l'autre bout, et pour rien d'autre. Les juges ont délibéré: "Si nous laissons cet homme passer librement, il aura menti sous serment, et la loi veut qu'il meure. Et si nous le pendons alors qu'il a juré qu'il passait le pont pour mourir sur la potence, puisqu'il aura dit la vérité la loi veut qu'il passe librement." [...]
Enfin Sancho se prononça:
- Il me paraît que tout ça peut se résumer en quelques mots: cet homme jure qu'il va mourir sur la potence et, s'il meurt pendu, il aura dit la vérité; donc, d'après la loi, il mérite d'être libre et de traverser le pont. Mais s'il n'est pas pendu, il aura menti, et, d'après cette même loi, il mérite qu'on le pende. [...]
- Eh bien, ce que j'en dis, c'est qu'on laisse passer la partie de cet homme qui a dit la vérité, et qu'on pende celle qui a menti.
- Mais, monsieur le gouverneur, il faudrait pour cela diviser cet homme en deux parties, la menteuse et la véridique. Et, si on le divise, il mourra forcément; et l'on n'aura pas observé le texte de la loi, à laquelle on doit expressément obéir.
- Écoutez, mon bon monsieur, ou je suis un imbécile, ou il y a autant de raisons de faire mourir cet homme-là que de le laisser vivre; parce que si la vérité le sauve, le mensonge le condamne. Puisqu'il en est ainsi, vous devriez dire à ces messieurs qui vous envoient que les raisons de condamner et d'absoudre, mises dans la balance, pèsent le même poids, et qu'ils doivent donc le laisser passer librement, car il vaut toujours mieux faire le bien que le mal.

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review 2014-07-03 09:43
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel García Márquez,Edith Grossman

Love In The Time Of Cholera is as much a love story as Wuthering Heights was – which is to say, it’s not a love story at all. It’s a story about an obsession disguised and perceived as love.

My complaint is not about Florentino Ariza waiting for the supposed love of his life for over 50 years. However, that fact alone does not qualify it as a classic timeless love story, thank you very much; especially when you consider that Florentino Ariza was the kind of idiot who lived with his head on clouds and never really knew the woman he claimed to be so in love with. They were infatuated with the ideal that each dreamt the other up to be, since they never really knew each other. The entire affair that started in their youth consisted of love letters filled with the sort of thing that teenagers fancying themselves in love wrote to each other and literally zero face-to-face conversations. I’m not opposed to the author writing this kind of story, not at all, but I’m opposed to the idea that this is a great love story. Obsession and lust isn’t love.

And there’s a lot of lust in this story. Every character slept around, and while I’m not opposed to men who slept around while “waiting” for their “true love”, I do not like it; and I reserve the right not to like such characters (there are exceptions). But the problem I see with this is mainly the idea that all these carnal activities are depicted as love as well. I agree that it’s possible to love more than one person, but I do not agree with the perception that lust = love. But you could say that Florentino Ariza, being an idiot, does not know the difference. That is quite possible.

About the writing:
I found the prose tedious to read, not at all lyrical or poetical like some people claimed it was. But then again, preference is a subjective matter that varies from reader to reader. Within the first 10 pages I understood why I DNFed this years ago when I checked it out of a library, and nevertheless I persisted reading through the rest of the book. I believe my perseverance is to be congratulated.

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