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Ana María Matute: Los soldados lloran de noche (Soldiers Cry by Night)

This is the second in Matute’s Civil War Trilogy. Manuel is now a young man. At the beginning of the book, we learn that his biological father – Jorge de Son Major – has died and finally recognised Manuel. However, Manuel understandably feels much greater attachment to José Taronji, the man who brought him up as a father and who was killed two years early, apparently for his political activities. Manuel has since become close to two of José’s comrades – Alejandro Zarco, known to all as Jeza, and Es Mariné. After Jeza’s capture and execution, Manuel seeks out, Marta, Jeza’s widow and he becomes friends with Marta who recounts her early life, first with Raúl and then with Jeza. Thought the war is coming to an end, Manuel and Marta plan one last action, first carrying secret documents in Jorge de Son Major’s boat and then attacking a military post.

Apart from the attack, which takes place on the last two pages of the book, the war, as in the previous book, Primera memoria (School of the Sun; The Island), is there but remains somewhat remote. Matute is far more concerned with how it affects people than in violent action and, of course, all the major characters are affected, either as participants or as friends and relatives of participants. As with Primera memoria (School of the Sun), Matute is also concerned about how past and present merge. She shows this not only by switching between past and present but by showing how the present is totally dependent on what happened to us in the past. This technique, the switching between first and third persons and the separation of the story into three separate parts, lend a certain distance to the narrative, making it more universal, even though the story is essentially local, even parochial, in scope and it is this that makes this book much more than just another Civil War novel.

Publishing history

First published in Spanish 1964 by Ediciones Destino
First published in English 1995 by Latin American Literary Review Press

Translated by Robert Nugent