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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 ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Nada

Overall customer rating: 5.000

College girl's "freshman" year a harrowing tale

by TealeTheSlowReader on Mar 15, 2009

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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