Monday, March 31, 2014

Two novels set in the Spanish Civil War

To finish with resources about the Spanish Civil War, I'd like to introduce two novels aimed at young adult readers. Both books are love stories set at the time of the Spanish Civil War and we also follow the main characters' lives after their traumatic experience in the war.

Noche de Alacranes by Alfredo Gómez Cerdá.
Alfredo Gómez is one of the most prestigious and popular writer for young adults in Spain. He has published over 80 books which have been translated into many languages. I have introduced some of his books in previous posts and again I recommend the short novel Barro de Medellín to students in a bilingual or IB programs.

An old woman, Catalina Melgosa (aka Delgadina) is invited to talk to high school students in León, a city in Northern Spain. The retelling of her young life during  the Spanish Civil War makes her have a Noche de Alacranes, a night of insomnia. During this sleepless night she recalls her teenage love for Emilio and how she got involved in the war. She keeps memory tokens in a cookie tin. Looking at these tokens triggers flashbacks about momentous events in her life. 

As a teenager Delgadina lives in a village in León province and is in love with Emilio. Both come from different social backgrounds as Emilio belongs to one of the richest families in the area. When the war starts the region is soon taken by the Francoist troops and a period of repression starts. Many young men escape to the nearby mountains to continue the fight, among them Delgadina's brother. They are known by the name of 'maquis' fighters and Delgadina becomes their contact with the rest of the world, taking food and other supplies to them and being their mail.

When the group of 'maquis' fighters kidnap Emilio, a Franco supporter, Delgadina helps him to escape out of love. Soon after, all the 'maquis' fighters are killed by the Francoist police and Delgadina escapes to France where she gets married and has a family. Many years later, she returns to León as a widow and gets the invitation from the high school. The event is shown in the local newspaper where Emilio learns Delgadina has returned. Soon, they meet for a coffee 50 years later.

The novel shows the repression that the Francoist troops and police took on the citizens who supported the Republican government. It also portrays the life and fate of the 'maquis', the guerrilla groups who continued fighting Franco for many years even after the end of the Second World War. But the novel is also a beautiful love story between two young innocent people who were merely puppets engulfed by war and the social and political turmoil in Spain. The novel also reflects how fate influences our lives to an incredible extent. Finally, the novel serves to educate new generations and encourage them to take interest in 'Memoria Histórica', which has become a political policy in Spain.

More links:
Reading guide
Author´s website
Interview to the author
The author speaks about Noche de Alacranes