Spain in a 100 Books, the Women

Earlier I posted about a feature in Letras Libres that listed close to 100 books that helped define Spain in the 20th Century. One of the things you may have noticed is there were scarcely any women writers. Laura Freixas has remedied that situation with her addition of 25 women authors. I have read several and several are in English so it is useful list. You can see some of the books I am acquainted with.

This kind of lopsideness in lists shows up a lot in Spanish speaking critics. A few years ago the list of the top 100 best novels of the last 25 years Spanish had 5-10 books by women. Not a particularly representative sample.

I already know the standard answer of these critics: “We don’t apply qoatas, we only look for quality.” Quality? Acording to who? Since literature isn’t an exact sience, the quality will always be a question of taste ( tastes educated, formed, polite, of course, but in the end tastes), a question, then, subjective. Subjective factors are the ones that influence. That, for example, the Aragonese critic Félix Romeo has mentioned more books from Aragonese authors than his Catalan or Canarian college, seems to me explainable: he has more information about these works, the ones he knows, as such they are closer to him. And I legitimate, on the condition that one does not privilege other circumstances over others…that is what occurred when one only asks opinions of men (I am referring to the four critics consulted in that edition of Letras Libres).

Ya sé cuál es la respuesta estándar ante críticas de ese tipo: “No aplicamos cuotas, sólo atendemos a la calidad”. ¿Calidad? ¿A juicio de quién? Pues no siendo la literatura una ciencia exacta, la calidad siempre será cuestión de gustos (gustos instruidos, formados, educados, desde luego, pero gustos al fin), cuestión, pues, subjetiva. En la que influyen factores subjetivos. Que por ejemplo el crítico aragonés, Félix Romeo, haya mencionado más libros de autores aragoneses que su colega catalán o canario me parece explicable: tiene más información sobre esas obras, las conoce mejor, le resultan más próximas. Y legítimo, a condición de que no se privilegie unas circunstancias sobre otras… que es lo que ocurre cuando sólo se pide opinión a varones (lo eran los cuatro críticos consultados en el número de Letras Libres al que me estoy refiriendo).

The first three are available in English. The last I will be reading in a month or two. The full list is here.

Nada (1945), de Carmen Laforet

Fiesta al noroeste (1953), de Ana María Matute

La plaça del Diamant (1962), de Mercè Rodoreda

Mi hermana Elba (1980), de Cristina Fernández Cubas