Ana Maria Matute: Author who suffered under Franco and was acclaimed for her lyrical depictions of Spanish life in the Civil War

 

Matute in 2010: she was one of 'the generation of the frightened children'
Matute in 2010: she was one of 'the generation of the frightened children'

The author Ana Maria Matute was best known for her lyrical books set during the Spanish Civil War. Among her many literary awards was the 2010 Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's foremost literary honour; she was only the third woman to receive the prize.

Matute and her contemporaries, traumatised by the Civil War, were described as the "generation of the frightened children", and much of Matute's writing depicted the wartime devastation of rural Spain from a child's perspective. She also wrote directly for children and adolescents, and was acclaimed for novels such as Los Ninos Tontos (The Stupid Children), and El Verdadero Final de La Bella Durmiente (The True Story of Sleeping Beauty).

She often used biblical allusion, and used the story of Cain and Abel to symbolise the familial divisions caused by the Civil War; among her most popular novels is Los Abel (The Abels). She also produced a Civil War trilogy, consisting of Primera memoria (1959, Awakening in the UK), Los soldados lloran de noche (1964; Soldiers Cry by Night) and La trampa (1969; The Trap), in which the children of Primera memoria are depicted as adults.

During the Franco era Matute led a beleaguered literary existence: most of her work was censored and she was blacklisted from any journalistic activities. "They called me irreverent, immoral, they twisted everything," she said in 2011 at an exhibition which showed how official censors had interfered with her work.

For most of the 1970s and 1980s she wrote almost nothing, due to depression; she returned to writing with a trilogy of medieval fantasy stories. Her latest book, Family Demons, is due to be published later this year.

EVE THOMAS

Ana Maria Matute, author: born 26 July 1925; one son; died 25 June 2014.

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