- Literature Elena Fortun’s war
- Literature Pioneers of the modern woman
The same morning that half the world anxiously waited for the Swedish Academy to award its Nobel Prize for Literature, in the Regional Archive of the Community of Madrid there was another event as extraordinary as the award for Annie Ernaux. Or, perhaps, even more amazing. Because that October 6, before only nine women, witnesses of honor in the Delicias neighborhood who came from other countries or provinces, one more piece of the puzzle was completed. Elena Fortun (1886-1952), the most relevant Spanish writer of children’s and youth fiction. Yet 70 years after his death, his legacy and his literature grow bigger.
This time, Alicia Field, 82landed from Buenos Aires to deposit the original correspondence that the writer sent, during the last years of her life, to Agnes Field (1897-1994), her friend, confidante and frustrated love that she met during her exile in Argentina. Although the publishing house renaissancefine archaeologist in the recovery and revaluation of Fortún, already published them in 2020, the niece of the Latin American intellectual appeared with a new find: the last letter that the creator of the emblematic character of Celia sent to Inés Field.
The April 1, 1952 -with some lines added on the 4th-, he told him with an uneven stroke: “I look like a ghost. I think I will die at last. But I didn’t think I was going to suffer so much. Here the matter of the doctors has me undone». A month later, on May 8, Aragonese Encarnacion -that was her name- died after a lacerating lung cancer and a brilliant literary career, although reviled as the author of second -double sanbenito: children’s literature and women; For years she wrote hidden in the bathroom to avoid conflicts with her husband and the Franco regime censored her.
“It’s a sheet, it was folded in four and I found it inside Inés’s notebook, separated from all the other letters,” explains Alicia Field in a telephone conversation from Berlin, about this treasure of 133 epistles typewritten and pen, dated between 1948 and 1952that GREAT MADRID has been able to consult exclusively, together with Eulalia Iglesias, the director of the Joaquín Leguina Regional Library. «The paper is a little acidic, that is normal, and we are in the process of cataloging them and then digitizing them. They are very valuable because they give us an x-ray of her work », she affirms, and reveals that the archive of the Madrilenian, ceded in 2018 by the family of the pioneer researcher Marisol Dorao (1930-2017), is one of the most consulted of the institution.
«It seemed to me that this documentation was going to have more value there than in my hands and I photocopied all of them to keep a copy. My aunt Inés kept them for decades. Note that the last letter is from 1952 and Inés died in 1994. So she had them for a long time and took very good care of them, ”says Field’s generous niece, with the same care with which she guards the family memory. «When I started reading them, it really was a party. It was so expressive that one of her feels that she has met her, because she bare her soul. It’s like reading a novel. From time to time I like to go back to them, they are very substantial. I discovered not only life and what Elena felt, but also how Inés’s life could have been, that she was so reserved. We don’t know much about her private life, we don’t have the letters from Inés to Elena».
Alicia Field ordered and cataloged the writings in five blocks, along with her older sister, Henrietta. Thus, he unraveled Fortún’s life after his return to Madrid in 1948, when she tried to return to our country with her husband, the republican soldier Eusebio de Gorbea. The procedures remain unfinished, as he commits suicide while Fortún is in Spain, and ends up with her back in Buenos Aires, a city from which he bids farewell forever in 1950, and after a convulsive stay (November 1949-May 1950) in New Jerseywith his son Luis and his daughter-in-law Anne Marie Hug. Definitely installed in Barcelona, as he writes to Inés Field, also from Madrid and from his beloved Ortigosa del Monte (Segovia)with already deteriorated health, which lead her to the Catalan sanatorium of Puig D’Olane (1951) and to the Madrid Santa Julia, in painful agony.
«I have had access to damaged material, corroded by mold, by moths, so absolutely destroyed that it was impossible to do anything with it. It’s a miracle that these letters still exist and that they have been preserved with this immense respect and affection”, he stresses Christina Linares, Renaissance editor and with an admirable tenacity in dusting off “with all her letters” the authors parked by History. Also present at Alicia Field’s visit, she lends the right word to synthesize the legacy that still flourishes after Elena Fortún: “Miracle.” Another one, because as the participants of these prodigies detail, a few are already treasured.
The miracle of knowing, thanks to Alicia Field, what Fortún relied on for his Celia governess in America (1944), since the rebellious and tongue-tied girl was a copy of the author. «Inés sent the investigator Carmen Bravo Villasante a 50-page document about Fortún, but he did not publish all the information in the biography, it only mentions ‘the painful case of celia governess…’, and we didn’t understand”, introduces Christina Linares. And Alicia Field solves: «I have the original draft written in pencil. There he tells that Elena, who did not feel inspired to finish a book that she had half of her, asked Inés to borrow some letters that she writes from Yacuíba ». that email from 1918, of which the family only keeps the first two letters, was the one that Inés Field sent to her mother after leaving for Bolivia at the age of 22, where she was a teacher. «In those two letters, she speaks of three wells, of San Pedro, of Gaucho Torres… All that sounded familiar to me. Celia governess… At least a couple of dialogues are as is, “says the editor. And her niece finishes off: «When Elena was in Spain, she confessed that she had used that email from Yacuíba. She tells Inés that she had a terrible pain when reading the book and seeing them transcribed, because Elena never asked her permission, as if she downplayed it. Fraternal friendship was woundedbut he got over it, they continued to write to each other».
He also says that Fortún gave him Celia what she says Y Celia at schoolwhen, At the age of 8, he went to have a snack at the Bambi confectionery, in Buenos Aires, where her aunt met every week with six friends. “I think she was Victorina Duran the one that took Elena. She was a closed group, but she was so funny and they liked the way she talked so much that they integrated her ». And so it all began. One more link in the chain of wonders to untie the one who screamed so much with her pen.
Like the miracle that Inés disobeyed Fortún’s request to burn her vital manuscript signed with a pseudonym, Hidden Path (2016), which Field delivered to Marisol Dorao, in her journey to rebuild the trail of the author.
Like the miracle of Dorao herself -professor at the University of Cadiz and Fortún’s biographer-, to whom the writer’s daughter-in-law bequeathed a suitcase of documents in New York, where she kept the yellowed pages and pencil of Celia in the revolution (1987), the unpublished link about the Madrid of the civil war that was missing in the saga.
Like the miracle that this same manuscript, which disappeared after its publication in Aguilar, arrive in 2021, by ordinary mail and without senderto the office of Eulalia Iglesias in the Library.
Like the miracle that Joseph Louis Borau -television director Celia (1993); Lines of Carmen Martin Gaite– Watch over more letters from Fortún -bequeathed to the RAE, the daughter-in-law gave them to him on a trip to NY with Dorao-.
Like the miracle that the new generation of researchers took over from Bravo-Villasante and Dorao: they are María Jesús Fraga, Inmaculada García Carretero, Puri Mascarell, María Folguera and Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles, who located Alicia Field after searching and writing to several relatives on Facebook.
And the miracle of Alicia Field herself, who, as she defends, “may death find us alive”, has promised to write a biography about his aunt. Summarizes Christina Linares, after publishing a score of Fortún, beyond Celia: “Exciting things are coming.”
GREAT AUTHOR, NO LABELS
the two volumes, Do you know who I am Y suffering woman (Editorial Renacimiento), gather the letters that Elena Fortún wrote to Inés Field, from 1948 to 1952, without including the last one -revealed here- that the Argentine intellectual kept in a notebook. The finding not only throws unknown data about the author, about the last years of her life and about the network of friends who supported her-Maria de la O Lejárraga, Victorina Duran, Maria Martos, Carmen Laforet, Carmen Conde…-. It is also proof that Fortún was much more than a creator of children’s literature, as the interviews with What the children say (2019), published on ABC between 1930 and 1931; his work as a chronicler in Celia in the revolution (1987), or the fictionalized autobiography hidden trailwho originally signed as Rose Mary Brown and that it was intended for the graphologist and feminist Matilda Raswith whom she was in love. Both were part of sapphic circle of Victorina Durán and were regulars at Lyceum Women’s Club of Madrid.
After the character of Maria Luisa in Hidden PathFortún’s journey to understand his homosexualitybetween the femininity mandates of the time, and the recognition of her potential and need as a writer. It is not the first time that the author used reality for her work. In addition to the verification that she has been able to do with Celia governess in America (1944), Inés Field was also a character in Celia’s Notebook (1947), where he is listed as Sister Agnes The Argentine infected Fortún with her profound religiosity. Similarly, in Celia in the revolution the influence of Matilde Ras or in the sapphic The pension of Santa Casilda (2022), that of Victorina Durán, who dressed in men’s clothing. «It is fascinating how about to enter 2023 things continue to be discovered by Elena Fortún and material appears. The puzzle is bigger than we thought», says Christina Linares, one of the architects of the Fortune phenomenon.