Courtship Customs in Postwar Spain

Courtship Customs in Postwar Spain

Courtship Customs in Postwar Spain

Courtship Customs in Postwar Spain

Synopsis

Carmen Martin Gaite has a sizeable corpus of creative literature which, for the most part, combines personal or fictional experience with a realistic view of life in contemporary Spain. Her prize-wining essay Usos amorosos de la postguerra espanola Courtship Customs in Postwar Spain] (1987) is a companion piece to her fictional work and offers a key that explains the attitudes of the protagonists as well as those of her generation. Its dedication clearly shows that this is not a piece of dry research: For all Spanish women between 50 and 60, who don't understand their children. And for their children, who don't understand them. She obviously hit the right chord: the book was so popular that it sold seven editions in less than six months and was named Libro de Oro Gold Book] by the Spanish Booksellers Guild.

Excerpt

When a historical period piques your interst and you try to get your bearings in it, like groping your way through a dark room, your curiosity is not entirely satisfied by reading factual accounts of battles, religious conflicts, diplomatic negotiations, riots, the price of wheat, or changes in dynasties, no matter how convincingly chroniclers arrange these shifting events. And at some point you ask yourself: “What were those people who went to work, who crowded into the churches or took part in riots really like? How did they get to know each other; what did they wear; what was missing from their lives; how did prevailing rules affect their love-life? And above all, what were the standards of their education?”

Fifteen years ago, questions of this kind led me to delve into minor texts of eighteenth-century Spain (newspapers, sermon collections, edicts, private correspondence, memoirs) and, because I was studying customs of courtship and marriage, to focus on the theme of love between men and women.

In 1972, the Siglo XXI press brought out the first edition of my work Love Customs of Eighteenth-Century Spain, which I had presented in June of that same year as my doctoral dissertation at the University of Madrid with a different, more academic title. Soon after, encouraged by the favorable reaction to my monograph—friends commented that it read “like a novel”—I began to ponder the relationship between history and story, and concluded that if I had managed to use material from archives as if I were writing a novel, I could do the experiment in reverse: that is, I would apply the criteria used for writing historical monographs to the same material that I had on other occasions turned into novels because it would come from the archives of my own memory. I realized that at the very least I would have to supplement my personal recollections with visits to periodical libraries in search of texts and commentaries for a thorough study of love and courtship customs in postwar Spain.

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