Ana María Matute: Primera memoria (School of the Sun; later The Island)
This is the first in Matute’s Spanish Civil War trilogy, though the Civil War barely plays a role in this book. We hear vaguely about the war and some of the women in the village mention that their husbands are away fighting but it has little direct impact on the village or this story. No, this story is about growing up. Matia lives with her grandmother and cousin, Borja. Her mother is dead and her father is away so, despite the best efforts of the grandmother, who is pretty tyrannical, Matia and Borja grow up with minimal supervision. And that is what this book is about – the various problems of growing up, including sex, loyalty, betrayal, relationships and the essential infallibility of human beings. Matute puts the magnifying glass on Matia, Borja, Matia’s friend, Manuel, whom she ends up betraying, and the grandmother, increasing the intensity with her images of the strong sun shining down and the often harsh landscape.
First published in Spanish 1960 by Ediciones Destino
First published in English 1963 by Pantheon Books
Translated by Elaine Kerrigan (School of the Sun); Laura Lonsdale (The Island)