Biography of Acclaimed Spanish Writer Ana Maria Matute
Ana María Matute is one of the most well-known Spanish authors of our century. Her many contributions earned her multiple accolades and the status of being one of the greatest authors of the post-war period (after the Spanish Civil War).
Her diversity in literature held a simplicity that hid the complexity of humans and combined fantasy and realism. She has inspired a whole generation of writers and her name continues to sound around the world.
Keep reading for a look at the life story, contributions, and exceptional accomplishments left by Ana María Matute, an acclaimed Spanish writer, and inspiring woman.
Ana María Matute was born in Barcelona, Catalonia on July 26th, 1925. Her father was Catalan and her mother was Castillian. The family lived a wealthy, comfortable lifestyle; as her father was the owner of an umbrella factory. She was the second in a family of five siblings, two men and three women.
Ana María’s childhood was marked by her delicate health. Unfortunately, at age four, Ana María Matute suffered a kidney infection that almost took her life. After getting better, she wrote her first illustrated story at the young age of five years old.
She grew up fascinated by fantasy and reading fantastic magical stories by Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm Brothers. Her father’s business ventures took him to travel to Berlin and London frequently. He used to bring back stories to tell her. The two of them became very close as she grew older.
At the age of eight, she fell ill once more and was sent to live with her grandparents in the town of Mansilla de la Sierra, Logroño. She also lived briefly in Castilla, Mallorca, and went to Catholic school in Madrid.
Becoming an Author During the War
When she was ten years old, Ana María Matute wrote a magazine by the name of Shibyl and once again took charge of the illustrations. She kept writing throughout her childhood.
The sounds of the bombs during Spain’s Civil War marked her life. Ana María was only ten years old when the war began in 1936. She grew up often locked up at home as a safety precaution.
This inspired her literary works to focus on children caught in the conflict, including those from the poorest rural areas of Spain she had visited as a little girl.
After completing high school, she continued to study music, painting and took on literature as her goal. It was in 1943 when Ana María Matute wrote her first novel Pequeño Teatro (Little Theater), which would be published eleven years later and would earn her the Planeta (Planet) Prize in 1954.
Ana María married writer Eugenio de Goicochea in 1952. Together they had a son named Juan Pablo. Unfortunately, they separated in 1963, as their marriage had multiple issues which marked her literary work later on.
Surrounding Political Climate
Ana María Matute named the generation of authors to which she belonged to “la generación de los jóvenes asombrados” (“the generation of amazed young people”). Any author from Spain who reflected their childhood during the war in their literary works became a part of this group of writers.
She was a tough woman and carried a social compromise during her life that led to her literary works being censored by the Spanish government. She had an intensely personal commitment to morale and professionalism that pushed her to highlight her intellectual and ideological preferences. She had a strong desire for justice and although she considered herself of leftist ideology, she never joined any political party.
Spain was living under the military regime and dictatorship of Francisco Franco at the time. The repression, prosecution, censorship, and inequality were visible in multiple aspects of society.
After her divorce, Ana María Matute lost custody of her son Juan Pablo, and she was allowed to share with him only on Saturdays. This was a common trait of Franco’s government, which would often strip women of basic rights.
She was blacklisted from becoming a journalist and had one of her novels, Luciérnagas (Fireflies) banned from being published because of censorship.
Literary Works and Accolades
Many of her novels won the most important Spanish awards in Spanish literature. In 1952 she won the Gijón Prize for Fiesta al Noreste (Party at the northeast). In 1958 she published the novel Los Hijos Muertos (The dead children), with which she won the Critic’s Prize and Spanish National Prize for Literature.
Ana María Matute left Spain for the United States in 1960. She worked as a reader in several universities, such as Bloomington in Indiana and Norman in Oklahoma.
She was a member of several Hispanicist associations such as the Hispanic Society of America, Sigma Delta Pi, and Honorary Fellow of the American Association Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.
Ana María Matute was nominated with the Literature Nobel Prize in 1976 but didn’t win. In the 1980s, she was distinguished with the National Prize for Children’s Literature for Sólo un Pie Descalzo (Only one bare foot). This recognition was followed by a period of silence in which she fell under a tough depression and alcoholism.
Ana María Matute’s Contributions and Legacy
Ana María was elected in 1996 as a member of the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy). She became the third woman to join in 300 years. Her membership became official two years later, following a memorable speech that carried her fantastic vision of the world.
Her work has been translated to English, Lithuanian, Polish, French, Norwegian, Japanese, and other languages around the world. She earned the Premio Cervantes (Cervantes Prize) in 2010 and was the third woman to win such an honor.
Ana María Matute deposited a legacy keepsake in the Caja de Letras del Instituto Cervantes (Cervantes Institute’s Box of Letters) that will remain preserved until July 26, 2029. She is one of the only literary personalities to have left a valued personal object in the institute’s headquarters.
Her role as an author is considered to be highly relevant in the post-war period from a sociological aspect. Her condition as a woman broke barriers and allowed her to earn a spot in a society ruled by men. She was able to show the reality many women were living through harsh poetic lines and irony.
Ana María Matute passed away in Barcelona on June 25th, 2014 at age 88. Her tales of the loss of innocence of children during the Spanish Civil War have made her one of Spain’s highly acclaimed authors and they are of great value to Spanish literary history.
Share Your Thoughts!
I hope this blog post about Ana María Matute leaves you inspired and eager to find out more about this amazing author and figure of women empowerment. Do you know other Spanish authors of the post-war period? How about any women leaders that also stood out during the Spanish Civil War?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below and let’s start a conversation!
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