One of the most important literary works of post-Civil War Spain, "Nada" is the semiautobiographical story of an orphaned young woman who leaves her small town to attend university in war-ravaged Barcelona. Edith Grossman's vital new translation captures Carmen Laforet's feverish energy, powerful imagery, and subtle humor. "Nada," which includes ...Read MoreOne of the most important literary works of post-Civil War Spain, "Nada" is the semiautobiographical story of an orphaned young woman who leaves her small town to attend university in war-ravaged Barcelona. Edith Grossman's vital new translation captures Carmen Laforet's feverish energy, powerful imagery, and subtle humor. "Nada," which includes an illuminating Introduction by Mario Vargas Llosa, is one of the great novels of twentieth-century Europe. "Laforet vividly conveys the strangeness of Barcelona in the 1940s, a city that has survived civil war only to find itself muted by Franco's dictatorship...The spirit of sly resistance that Laforet's novel expresses, its heroine's determination to escape provincial poverty and to immerse herself in 'lights, noises, the entire tide of life, ' has lost none of its power of persuasion." -- "The New York Times Book Review " "That this complex, mature and wise novel was written by someone in her early 20s is extraordinary....But after six decades, this first novel has lost none of its power and originality, and we are fortunate to have it in this fine translation."-- "The Washington Post, chosen as a Washington Post Best Book of the Year ""Nada does indeeed recall Sartre and Camus, but it is fresher and more vibrant than either, and with its call to intuition and feelings rather than intellect, it cuts deeper....[A] mesmerizing new translation....a beautiful evocation of the tidal wave of late adolescent feeling....[Laforet] wrote Nada when she was only 23, yet the book resonates with frightening maturity, sadness and depth...a work of genius." -- "Los Angeles Times ""A brilliantly subtle book whose power lies in what goes unsaid..."Nada" is a skillfully written, multifaceted novel, and its eerie relevance to today's political climate and social attitudes is difficult to ignore." -- "The San Francisco Chronicle" "Laforet's moody and sepulchral debut novel...has been given new life by acclaimed translator Grossman....Andrea's narration is gorgeously expressive, rippling with emotion and meaning...fans of European lit will welcome this Spanish Gothic to the States with open arms and a half-exasperated, "What took you so long?"-"Publisher's Weekly (starred review) ""This Modern Library edition should be a keeper." -- "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ""Carmen Laforet finds new life with this beautiful translation...dazzling in its approach...Laforet's talent in addressing complex familial and social issues us nothing short of amazing...her wiser-than-thou nature and clever handling of bitter dialogue [are] the mark of a truly gifted writer.....a timeless work of art." -- "The Fredericksburg Free Lance Star" "Nada is neither moralist, nor prolix, unlike most other Spanish literature of the time and before. This is a modern voice, philosophically and stylistically, talking to us in freedom from the darkest hours of the victory of fascism....remarkably sophisticated." -- "The Independent" "[A] remarkable achievement...Nada's work is sui generis, a gothic horror story which deserves the widest possible readership." -- "The Sunday Herald ""Edith Grossman's translation makes the rich, dense descriptions....sound perfectly natural in English; not a beat is missed, not an adjective misplaced. Let us hope that her fine, readable version will enable "Nada "to achieve, in the English-reading world, the perennial popularity of a great twentieth-century novel." -- "TLS "Read Less
Viva! Viva, Carmen Laforet, my hero, and Nada, a miracle novel from an author so young.
The setting is around 1941-42, after the Spanish Civil War, when Spain is not involved in World War II but feeling the claustrophobic and repressive aftermath of their national implosion. Other readers will have told you the plot of this novel, but what you need to know about Nada is that Andrea arrives in Barcelona at midnight, and the following year leaves in broad daylight. What a relief at the end when Ena's kind father offers Andrea a sort of "get away" car to rejoin his family in Madrid, with a good breakfast and lunch along the way--what Andrea's own family could not provide.
The setting might be Barcelona, Spain, but there is something alarmingly universal about a girl's attempt to overcome the limitations of her family and discover who she is through university-level study. How does a young woman create herself under adverse circumstances? (It's a kind of third-world story that also happens in the so-called first-world.) Early in the novel, Andrea?s Aunt Angustias notes that Andrea went to a sort of high school run by nuns, but that it was in a village (one assumes where scholarly achievement was not expected); and we learn that the Barcelona home of her grandmother (with miserable aunt and uncles) is her only chance of creating herself, of attending a university, and escaping through studying literature. In the course of the year, Andrea must navigate some extremely uncomfortable emotions; she loses her best friend, Ena (but finds her again, later). Boyfriends elude her. The irony of all such novels is that it's the horrible family who gives the author the story (in which case there are no villains, only victims). This notion is fully realized in her often vile Uncle Roman, who plays the violin so poignantly that you can hear it in Laforet's words, Grossman's elegant translation.
As a final note, when I was 18, I didn't know that Carmen Laforet and her main character, Andrea, existed. I was reading Hesse?s Demian at the time--another book about a young life developing through school. But now that this novel, Nada, has been brilliantly translated into an affordable Modern Library edition, university faculty should make it assigned reading (high school students will love this, too). Maybe the pleasure of reading is for those of us who are older; more than ever, I can understand that Andrea gets an exquisite experience of Barcelona when she strolls (or runs) through the streets after dark: the cool air, the quiet, the stars in the night sky, "an anguished harmony without light," an aesthetic experience all her own. Andrea, on a winter stroll, recounts, "Then I knew what I longed for: I wanted to see the Cathedral enveloped in the charm and mystery of the night. . . . Nothing could calm and astound my imagination like that Gothic city. . ." (92). Ah!
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