Mercè Rodoreda, The Fruits of Exile
The novels of Rodoreda are the great novels of modern Catalan literature. As is the case with the works of all the writers of her generation, the novels of Rodoreda show the effects of the Spanish Civil War - a war that broke lives, loves, and families, and that led to uprooting (in the form of exile for many), profound unhappiness, and destruction. Often, nonetheless, her writing allows us to catch a glimpse of hope at the end in such symbolic elements as flowers and jewels. Her work is also a reflection on the female condition and love.
The works of Mercè Rodoreda (Barcelona 1908 - Romanyà de la Selva, 1983) traverse the main areas of that modern Western literature that becomes contemporary through the experience of war and, more particularly, of exile. The experience of exile stretches the limits of literary realism, which are in no way sufficient for reading Rodoreda or sharing the memory of the world from which her books and characters speak. Born together with the cinema, as she liked to say to so many of her contemporaries (Pere Quart, Rafael Alberti), Rodoreda was a self-taught writer whose literary education was obtained through popular and patriotic verse, the emblematic works of Verdaguer and Ruyra, the literature of book-stalls, and later on, through journalism, by means of which she would come to know the Catalan literary elites of the nineteen-thirties. Nonetheless, it was during the Spanish Civil War (Aloma, her first valuable novel, was completed in 1938), and above all after the experience of the Second World War and the exile, that she succeeded in giving form to her project, which can be considered as one of the most ambitious in the Catalan literature of the twentieth century and as part of the cultural heritage of contemporary Europe. It is the result of experience and experiment, or in other words, the result of fragmentation.
From popular culture and the broadening and modelling of the literary possibilities of a language without a modern narrative tradition, from the minor or modish novels (the first four that she published) to the construction of a coherent, complex, all-but-complacent and progressively abstract and mythical fresco of the everyday lives of the twentieth century, assaulted by war and by the tenebrae of love - a fresco of mosaics in which her short stories, along with her posthumous novel La mort i la primavera (Death and the Spring), stand out besides her better known books - the works of Mercè Rodoreda should be read, in the words of her friend and mentor in expatriation, Josep Carner, as the most delicate, the most "flavoursome" fruit that her exile has bequeathed to us.