Almudena Grandes and the memory of the margins

On the occasion of the recent death of the writer Almudena Grandes, we have been able to read numerous articles and obituaries in which “the narrator of the memory of the forgotten”, A clear reference to the series of novels dedicated to the Spanish civil war and the anti-Franco resistance under the title Episodes of an endless war, the literary project in which the author has been working throughout the last decade of her life.

Farewell to Almudena Grandes in the civil cemetery of Madrid. Photography by Ramón Lobo.
Twitter / Almudena Grandes

This fundamental contribution to the recovery of Spanish resistant memory has been one of the most highlighted and praised aspects in the tributes dedicated to the figure of one of the most important narrators of Spanish literature.

But this has not been the only one. In his novels, Grandes has not only vindicated the anti-fascist struggle that continued active throughout several decades after the Republican defeat, but also his literature has been characterized by vindicating female participation both actively in warlike conflicts and in care work.

The latter has been systematically made invisible because it belongs to the rearguard and because it is a feminized task and, nevertheless, it was fundamental since it was what made it possible for the open confrontation to take place. For this reason, we can consider that one of the legacies of the Madrid writer consists of returning the place that corresponds to them to women who fought alongside men.

An affiliative memory: the historical and narrative proposal of the Episodes

“Immortal history does strange things when it intersects with the love of mortal bodies.”

This is the thesis of the first novel of the memorial cycle of Grandes and it works as a kind of mantra that tries to respond to the decisions, apparently irrational, that great characters of the history of the 20th century made affecting the lives of the rank and file militants.

However, this phrase also serves to understand the commitment to the remembrance of Grandes in which women have a fundamental role, since they are the ones who created and sustained these fundamental networks to guarantee the possibility of resisting the Franco regime and for the sustainability of life even in the most adverse situations.

History of affects, the complexity of the story of memory

By choosing women and their care networks as protagonists, Grandes introduces a series of questions that help us to approach the development of war and its consequences in a more complex and diverse way.

By focusing on personal relationships, he manages to show a range of victims that are not always part of the warlike imaginary: the rearguard of exile, people from the LGTBIQ + collective, those affected by postwar misery, orphans exploited in clergy-controlled institutions, sick of mental sanatoriums, urban links and rural, And a long etcetera.

The Serie Episodes of an Endless War.
Twitter / Almudena Grandes

In the same way, and thanks to the chosen perspective, the portrait of defeated Spain is not reduced to suffering and poverty but to the entire network of support, care and resistance that was created on the margins of Francoist society.

Thus, the traditional discourse of a fratricidal war is overcome by favoring a more real and just conception of the contest, which takes into account the different factors that intervened in the development and the final result of the conflict. In short, the war and dictatorship that are presented to us in the Episodes of an endless war They correspond to historical moments in which economic, political, gender identity and sexual orientation, class, etc. issues cannot be separated.

Almudena Grandes: memory, justice and reparation

The Madrid writer has stood out, among other things, for her commitment to the Spanish memorial movement. In this regard, his narrative production has not only echoed his personal involvement but also constitutes his main contribution to the collective memory of the country.

Beyond the importance of the type of story that it promotes and the social impact that its novels have had, it is worth highlighting what the appearance of a cycle such as that of the Episodes in 2010. In spite of the fact that since 2000 what has received the name of “boom memory ”, that is to say, a cultural explosion and interest in the historical memory of the Spanish Civil War that materialized in the publication of a huge number of novels, premiere of films, music, plays, etc., around 2008 Due to the global economic crisis and the damage it caused, attention was redirected to the extreme situation that was being experienced at that time. The memory and the wounds of the past were in the background.

At the same time, in 2007 a text was published that already predicted the end of the “boom memory ”, due to the“ weariness ”that the conventionalization of the type of war story that had been imposed was producing. We refer to Another goddamn Civil War novel! by Isaac Rosa, a kind of homage to Cortázar’s antinovela that literarily destroyed the memory novel by claiming an uncomfortable remembrance that would serve to mobilize the reading population to join the memorial movement that fought for the restoration of dignity to the victims of the repression.

Cover of Dr. García’s patients, fourth installment of the Episodes.
Twitter / Almudena Grandes

In this context the books of Almudena Grandes appeared. Long, complex and choral novels that proposed a look at the war that encompasses all the victims, and also all the people, men and women, who fought to end Franco’s regime.

In short, Episodes of an endless war supposed not only the revitalization of a declining literary trend but also put at the center of the debate the need to recover the stories of the forgotten, of the inhabitants of the margins.

There is a before and after to her novels because, after the resounding success of Grandes, it is undeniable that there are still many stories of war and resistance to be told and that the history of women remains incomplete.

Maite Goñi Indurain, Pre-doctoral researcher in Comparative Literature and Literary Studies, University of the Basque Country / University of the Basque Country

This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.

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