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Ana María Matute: La trampa (The Trap)

The third novel in her Spanish Civil War trilogy, this one is very different from the previous two, not least because there is no straightforward plot but also because the Spanish Civil War has been relegated to a very secondary role. In the first novel, the Civil War also had a secondary role but we were well aware that it was coming. In this novel it is well in the past and, while Matute does refer to it – normally to point out that the effect it had on most people was definitely negative – it is still relatively unimportant in this novel. Matia, the narrator of the novel, tells her story in a disordered diary, going back to her childhood and coming up to the present day. Though there is a narrative, it is clearly (and deliberately) disjointed. Matute clearly intends to give a patchwork view of her life and, by extension, of the psychology of a post-Civil War Spanish woman.

No soy un ser feliz, no puedo serlo, nunca lo fui. [I am not a happy person. I cannot be a happy person and I never have been one.] This remark she makes sums up, very simplistically, her outlook on life. She is not happy about what society has done to her as a woman, she is insecure in her relationship with her son and, of course, feels the Civil War left an indelible and painful mark on her (and those she loves). Her relationships such as they are tend to be with men, rather than women, and these relationships are not generally happy, leaving her alone and alienated from the world around her, whether in Spain or in the USA (where language problems add to her estrangement). Matute has painted a very sharp portrait of a woman, caught in post-Civil War, pre-democracy Spain, who is unsure of and unquestioning of her role as a woman and as a person, beyond the conventional ones.

Publishing history

First published in Spanish 1969 by Ediciones Destino
First published in English 1996 by Latin American Literary Review Press
Translated by Robert Nugent,