What happens when your side loses the biggest political conflict of your country’s history? What do you do if the winners establish an authoritarian regime where you aren’t allowed to express your beliefs, read your books, or teach your values to your children? Do you conform and watch your children be brainwashed with the lies that deny everything you hold dear? Or do you resist, knowing that you are dooming your kids to being pariahs in their own country?
Lidia Falcón’s family was on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War. The men of the family were killed or exiled, but Lidia’s grandmother, mother, and aunt made heroic efforts to raise Lidia in the spirit of resistance to the stultifying, anti-intellectual, and repressive environment of the dictatorship. And yes, the words “resistance” and “fascism” have been emptied of all meaning in English but this was was actual resistance to real fascism.
Lidia is now in her eighties. She fought against the dictatorship and later became a writer and a politician in the democratic Spain. Today, she’s waging a battle for true feminism and against the gender dogma of the radical left. Lidia’s conclusion is that, even in the most oppressive regime, you should definitely raise your children to know the truth and uphold the values of true liberalism. She’s very grateful to her family for not allowing the dictatorship to conquer her young brain.
The story is far more complicated than that, though. Lidia’s aunt and cousins had to leave the country and go into exile. Her mother, whom Lidia loved with great intensity, committed suicide because she couldn’t bear seeing her daughter jailed by the dictatorship.
There are no easy answers in this book, which is what makes it great. If there are any fellow Hispanists reading this post, I highly recommend this book for college courses on the postwar Spain. It’s so much better than Carmen Martín Gaite’s work. You truly get a feeling of the misery, the horror, the hunger, and the idiocy of the postwar years from Falcón’s writing. Compared to Falcón, Martín Gaite is so bourgeois, and I hate this word but I don’t know how else to put it. Falcón writes about people who celebrated a boiled potato as a great feast, not about the idiotic chicas topolino and their inane concerns.
Falcón also hates Carmen Laforet’s writing and simply eviscerates all of the literary idols of the 1940s. It’s so good. Highly, highly, highly recommend the book.