Monthly Archives: April 2013

3.0 Paula (1994)


Allende, Isabel. Paula. Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. New York: Harper Perennial, 1995. Print. (ISBN: 978-0-06-156490-1)

Original language: Spanish

Synopsis from the Back Cover:
“When Isabel Allende’s daughter, Paula, became gravely ill and fell into a coma, the author began to write the story of her family for her unconscious child. In the telling, bizarre ancestors appear before our eyes; we hear both delightful and bitter childhood memories, amazing anecdotes of youthful years, the most intimate secrets passed along in whispers. With Paula, Allende has written a powerful autobiography whose straightforward acceptance of the magical and spiritual worlds will remind readers of her first book, The House of the Spirits.”

Like The House of the Spirits, Paula is a book that was born from a series of letters Isabel Allende writes to a family member. The first is addressed to her grandfather and the second to her daughter Paula while she is in a comma after a porphyria attack. The initial purpose of her writing is to put her family history in order to tell it to Paula once she wakes up from her state, but that never happens, and the writing, in the form of letters to her own mother about her suffering, becomes a way to mourn and cope with the grief of an unavoidable end.

Paula Frías Allende died on December 6, 1992 at age 28.

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Posted by on April 25, 2013 in 3 Allende


2.0 The Time of the Doves (1960)


Rodoreda, Mercè. The Time of the Doves. Trans. David Rosenthal. Saint Paul: Graywolf Press, 1981. Print. (ISBN: 978-0-915308-75-0)

Original language: Catalonian

Synopsis from the Back Cover:
The Time of the Doves, the powerfully written story of a naive shop-tender during the Spanish Civil War and beyond, is a rare and moving portrait of a simple soul confronting and surviving a convulsive period of history. The book has been through over twenty printings in Spain, has been widely translated, and was made into a film.”

The period that frames this novel is also tumultuous. Spain was suffering a very difficult period in its history as it broke from tradition in pursuit of modernity and democracy. As a monarchy, the government failed to reach the needs of the majority of the country, thus propelling Spain into its Second Republic (1931-1936), a period of democratic governance, liberalized institutions, and a greater emphasis on equality and personal freedoms. Yet this change came with great repercussions.

The two main groups were the Nationalist and the Republicans. The Nationalists were the conservative party and were supported by the Catholic Church, the Army, and some aristocrats; it was the right- wing party. On the other hand, the Republicans were the liberal party supported by the middle and working classes, the left-wing party. The elections of 1931 took the Nationalists by surprise; they had been dominating the public arena for as long as Spain has been a nation, so it was predictable that this defeat would not be taken lightly.

Meanwhile, the people were enjoying freedoms they had never before experienced. Regionalists, citizens from Basque Country and Catalonia, wished to seize the moment to gain their autonomy from the rest of Spain. Women were allowed to vote, to work outside the home, to divorce, and to be considered as equals, so to speak. Workers established unions to protect their rights from abusive employers. Education, traditionally administered by the Church, became public and secular. Many schools were opened, and more people had access to education. Marriages, solely administered in the past by the Catholic Church to its members, could be performed by a justice of the peace or another official. All these changes were seen by the conservatives as tearing at the fabric of society.

The Second Republic had a short life. In the summer of 1936 the Spanish Civil War started. The General Francisco Franco rebelled against the government and became the leader of the Nationalists. With the help of Germany (Adolf Hitler) and Italy (Benito Mussolini), he defeated the Republican army constituted primarily by civilians and ended the war in 1939. Republicans, the defeated, received the derogatory name “Rojos” (Reds, or, in American parlance, “Pinkos”) as a reminder of their alliance with the Russian government (Joseph Stalin). During the time immediately after the war, members of the Republican party were severely persecuted. Many were killed or imprisoned. Castilian was considered the only official language of Spain, and the other languages, Basque, Galician, and Catalonian, were restricted to use in the home. Censorship came into effect, and the government and other institutions such as the Church and the Army could not be criticized. Spain fell into a military dictatorship of 36 years that ended with Franco’s death in 1975.

Look at the video and take notes.


Posted by on April 25, 2013 in 2 Rodoreda


1.0 Ourika (1823)


Duras, Claire de. Ourika. Trans. John Fowles. New York: The Modern Languages Association of America, 1994. Print. (ISBN: 0-87352-780-1)

Original language: French

Synopsis from the Back Cover:
“Based on a true story, Ourika relates the experiences of a Senegalese girl who is rescued from slavery and raised by an aristocratic French family during the French Revolution. Brought up in a household of learning and privilege, she is unaware of her difference until she overhears a conversation that makes her suddenly conscious of her race and of the prejudice it arouses. From this point on, Ourika lives her life not as a French woman but as a black woman ‘cut off from the entire human race.’ As the Reign of Terror threatens her and her adoptive family, Ourika struggles with her unusual position as an educated African woman in eighteenth-century Europe.”

Initially, the true story of a Senegalese girl living as a noble was part of a conversation that took place at Madame Duras’ house. The real Ourika was purchased by the governor of Senegal, the Chevalier de Boufflers in 1786, and he gave her as a gift to his aunt Mme la Maréchale who raised her as her own child in France, but, in contrast to the character of the novel, Ourika died at age 16 of tuberculosis in 1799 (Rouillard 19). This story raised interest among Madame Dura’s friends, and she felt encouraged to publish it. She incorporated the then-controversial (and in vogue) theme of interracial relationships, and made a few copies of the story anonymously in 1823 but reprinted several editions in 1824. Ourika became the best-seller of its time (DeJean viii). This success was resented by male writers such as Stendhal and Latouche who wrote anonymous provocative novels they passed as works of hers, and after that scandal she decided never to publish another book (Waller xiv).

At the time Ourika was published (1823), slavery was in practice and the Code Noir, the laws governing slaves, had been revised several times in order to avoid any loophole that might grant rights or freedom to slaves. Topics such as freeing slaves or interracial marriage were of great interest to those who defended slavery and those who opposed it. Although the French Revolution’s (1789-1799) motif: “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (Liberty, equality, fraternity) looked for the resolution of inequalities in society and abolitionist struggled to end slavery, the massacre of French people in Santo Domingo slowed the abolitionists’ momentum. It was not until 1848 that slavery was abolished in all French territories.

Watch the following documentary about the French Revolution and take notes. There is a quiz on this video, and afterward we are going to discuss this material on this page of the blog.


Posted by on April 25, 2013 in 1 Duras