Book Notes: The Sleeping Voice by Dulce Chacon

The Sleeping Voice is one of the most famous novels of the Spanish Civil War. We all know how much I love this genre but this novel I detested.

This was supposed to be a novel about the Republican women in Franco’s jails. In reality, though, it’s not a novel, it’s a fairy-tale.

For one, it is written in this deeply obnoxious, childish voice that is so primitive and prattly that in the 450 pages of text I only needed to consult the dictionary twice.

The characters are all so perfect that they seem inhuman. They are all beautiful, kind, loyal, they invariably fall in love at first sight and remain faithful to their partners even when those are separated from them for decades. They are perfect parents, perfect friends, perfect siblings, perfect comrades, and perfect revolutionaries. After 450 pages of this unblemished perfection, you begin to detest these freakish robots.

This way of depicting the Republicans has a dubious effect. What if some of the Republican prisoners were less perfect and more human? What if they sometimes snored, picked their noses, yelled at their kids, fought with their friends, lied or even flirted with somebody other than their spouse? Would they not deserve our compassion then? Does our interest in them depend on their capacity to convince us of their saintly behavior throughout their lives?

And can you guess how the fairy-tale ends? Right you are, with a wedding!

But hey, among the hundreds of novels on the Spanish Civil War, this primitive tear-jerker was one of the 3 most successful.

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