SavidgeReads shared his challenge to make a list of 10 books in which he defined the UK, his partner defined the USA. He invited his readers to make their own lists defining their own countries and I thought, oh, it'd be easy to come up with at least 10 titles from Spain.
I have realized some things in the process of this list:
-Most of my older Spanish reads are actually poetry. Which actually surprises me since I read so little poetry comparatively nowadays.
-I have a heavy bias towards literature dealing with the trauma of the Civil War and Franco.
-Way too many of the classic Spanish authors are men. I need to find more women!
Here follows my list of 11-I made it 11 because Don Quixote has to be included but it's so obvious!
The famous, the untouchable-no list about Spain can miss out Cervantes. Do I have to even talk about it? If you read Spanish, do try the 17th century version for a great insight in how language changes and evolves.
Into the Wilderness-Manuel Rivas
My roots spring from Galicia and while Cela is our most famous novelist, I just can't get behind the tremendismo genre of violence and shock value; I much prefer the picturesque phrasing of Galicia's poetry. This is a book that evokes the classic poetry while staying very modern. Blending mythology and real life, this is a book that feels Galician with its mountains and craggy coasts where crows may be knights.
Never to Return-Esther Tusquets
Written by a formidable force in the Catalan publishing world, this is a quintessentially female novel. Exploring how psychoanalysis may not help a women, this is an exploration of a neurotic woman desperate to be heard.
Most people seem to immediately think of the ETA when they think of the Basques and Atxanga, their most famous author, certainly has written a number of books touching on those topics but I prefer Obabakoak. It's a series of short stories about a small town named Obaba. It's quirky and enjoyable while retaining Atxanga's tendency to poke a stick where most people would not want to be pushed.
Blood Wedding-Frederico Garcia Lorca
Not a novel but no list defining Spanish literature can leave off Lorca whose influence has spread throughout every arena of art. (I particularly adore Saura's flamenco adaptation.) Most of his plays are accessible and resplendent with the tastes and styles of the Generation of '27 but I like Blood Wedding most-its rural setting and timeless feel endear it to me.
3 Exemplary Novels-Miguel de Unamuno
Actually not novels but rather novellas, Unamuno was one of the most influential thinks in Spain. Evoking Cervantes, Unamuno brings his philosophical light on the inner struggles between reason and faith and how those bear upon interpersonal relationships.
Holy Innocents-Miguel Dilibes
A more modern novel set in a rural Castillian village where the local politics, the caciques, are ruthlessly destroying the inhabitants. This is corruption at its base and lowest level.
Soldiers of Salamis-Javier Cercas
Blending truth and fiction, Cercas details the ordeals of a prisoner of war during the Civil War. This is a story about how heroes are made (and how they don't really exist) and what creates the truth. Necessary book if you're interested in the Civil War.
Carpenter's Pencil-Manuel Rivas
Ok, those who know me have raised your eyebrows, yes there are two Rivas books on here but this here is his defining book. Directly about how war destroys lives and the traumas of the Falangist regime.
Time of Silence-Luis Martin Santos
A great story about the lack of efficacy under Franco's regime, this is considered one of the greatest literary novels of the 20th century. It was banned when it came out-partially because it's not really a realist novel and partly because of its blend of sex, death, and philosophy. If you want a hint of life under Franco's later years...this is your novel.
Elegantly written, Laforet is exploring the traumas of post-Civil War Barcelona in a very understated way. It is at its heart a novel about mental illness and the coming of age of its protagonist. Between the lines are the currently highly oppressive politics but Laforet makes the whole novel seem very real since this focuses on the everyday strength of Andrea who observes how it may be easier to endure great setbacks rather than the everyday grind. Not to be missed!