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hispanic research journal, Vol. 13 No.

2, April, 2012, 18891

Reviews
El trauma del franquismo y su testimonio crtico en Nada de Carmen Laforet. By Irene
Mizrahi. Pp. 157. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta. 2010. ISBN: 9781588711670
El propsito del trabajo de Irene Mizrahi es analizar el libro de Nada como una versin en
femenino del bildungsroman, un acercamiento que queda justificado por ser Nada una obra
fragmentada, en la que no destacan ni un hilo narrativo ni un desenlace argumental. Lejos de
restar calidad y valor literario a Nada, esta particularidad hace de la obra un testimonio de
un trauma que se revive en la memoria (p. 9). Siguiendo esta argumentacin, Mizrahi sugiere
que Carmen Laforet pretendi que su pblico lector reflexionara acerca de cmo las mujeres
sobrevivan y vivan durante los primeros aos del rgimen franquista. Carmen Laforet decidi
para Nada dar ms importancia al retrato de la situacin de las mujeres durante este periodo
que definir un argumento literario convencional. Segn Mizrahi, esta eleccin indica que la
experiencia aterradora de la Guerra civil y los primeros aos de postguerra sobrepasaban a
cualquier composicin racional.
En este razonamiento est la originalidad de la relectura e interpretacin que propone
Mizrahi para Nada. Nos adentra en la gestin del trauma en Nada a partir de tres captulos
que interpretan a Andrea y sus vivencias en la casa Aribau (I), a Andrea y su interiorizacin
del trauma (II) y Andrea y su relacin con la ciudad de Barcelona y con personajes casi
externos a su familia (III). Mediante esta estructura, Mizrahi presenta a la protagonista como
una de las claves para su anlisis interpretativo de esta novela, en calidad de una narracin del
trauma sufrido tras la Guerra civil y los aos inmediatos a la posguerra. Andrea representaba
el sufrimiento que se vivi durante este periodo incluso por personas que no tuvieron un
compromiso poltico con la II Repblica y tampoco estuvieron en los espacios de encierro y
castigo al uso. La novela Nada nos ofrece una ventana al sufrimiento y a la gestin, y a la
convivencia, con el trauma posblico que afect tanto a hombres como a mujeres independientemente de filiaciones polticas, una narracin de horrores y de padecimientos que van de la
mano de diferentes voces femeninas. En concreto, es la de Andrea la que acerca a las vivencias
de ese da a da. Su voz y sus recuerdos son los que componen el argumento de Nada,
articulados en una historia con coherencia que Laforet se encarg de descomponer para
incluir a la protagonista y a sus experiencias en parmetros tericos y clnicos freudianos.
Las prcticas vitales derivadas de vivir una guerra dejaban a las mujeres y a los hombres
supervivientes sin la capacidad de procesar con lgica lo vivido. Por este motivo, Mizrahi
califica la memoria de Andrea como traumtica (p. 11). As, los olvidos y las partes de la
historia de Nada que no se cuentan quedan justificados y adquieren un sentido narrativo.
La consciencia que se tiene al leer Nada de esas elipsis y de los traumas de quienes intervienen
en el relato articula una actitud lectora activa que reclama indagar acerca de la verdad no
revelada (p. 11).
Esta buscada desestructuracin del relato, a partir de lo cotidiano, es uno de los motivos por
el que leer Nada resulte sencillo, pero no as llegar a su relato y sus detalles, que necesitan, y
necesitaban, de cierta informacin que su pblico lector ya tena, por compartir una realidad
comn entre el relato y su da a da. Esta confusin narrativa relativa es, segn Mizrahi, una
de las claves para que Nada pasara la censura franquista. La complicidad entre quienes leen y
la obra en s supone para Mizrahi situar a Nada en una fase de recuperacin del trauma en
que se daba sentido a la comunidad de la que se formaba parte. Recurriendo al trabajo de
Judith Herman Mizrahi reflexiona acerca del momento en que Andrea se acerc a sus vivencias

Queen Mary, University of London 2012

DOI 10.1179/174582012X13257549228732

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traumticas: cuando est fuera de la casa de Aribau, alejada de buena parte de esas situaciones
traumticas. Era en la casa Aribau donde se localizaban las experiencias negativas y dolorosas
de Andrea, que aparentemente eran slo suyas y formaban parte de su egorelato, pero que
siguiendo la argumentacin de Mizrahi representaban una expresin grotesca, a pequea
escala, del estado represor franquista. Concretamente, Mizrahi interpreta la casa familiar como
la representacin de un ambiente de encierro concentracionario frecuente tanto en el da a da
de la articulacin del poder franquista como parte tambin del contexto europeo que Carmen
Laforet conoca de la mano de la escritora polaca Linka Babecka. La descripcin de la llegada
de Andrea a Barcelona y de su entrada en la casa Aribau indicaban el cambio sbito
experimentado cuando alguien llegaba a un espacio de encierro (Andrea perdi su intimidad y
dej de tener el control de sus propiedades). Este cambio seala un poder coercitivo que segn
Mizrahi se poda sufrir tambin fuera de los lugares de represin al uso, pues llegaba hasta los
mismos hogares de personas particulares y annimas. La fase del trauma en la que Andrea se
encontraba no era la misma en la que estaban otros personajes de la narracin pues el resto de
las mujeres de la casa Aribau y el beb quedan presos de esa represin cuasi invisible, pero que
los ata. Una de las pocas cuestiones que se echan de menos en el trabajo de Mizrahi es una
explicacin de la actitud pasiva que mostraba Andrea. Ms que pasiva tal vez, ya que es
nuestra gua en sus recuerdos traumticos, y a la vez de los de la sociedad de este perodo
Andrea puede representar una mujer muda descrita por las pensadoras de la Librera de
Miln, en concreto Lia Cigarini que Mizrahi menciona, aunque sin mucha profundidad, al
describir a Andrea como una superviviente de la guerra que no aceptaba ser una muerta en
vida.
Universidad Complutense, Madrid

Ana I. Simn Alegre

Latino Los Angeles in Film and Fiction: The Cultural Production of Anxiety. By Ignacio
Lpez-Calvo. Pp. 239. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. 2011. ISBN: 9780816529261
In this ambitious and thoroughly researched book, Lpez-Calvo sets out to explore a
substantial corpus of films and novels that portray the extended, intense, and complex relation
between the city of Los Angeles and its Latino population. A first group of these sources
includes works by Latinos that place Los Angeles, its spatial layout, political history, and
patterns of ethnic segregation, as an active background that shapes and explains the evolution
of Chicano and Latino communities within the city. A second group includes fictional works
by Euro-American authors that focus their narratives on Latino characters, depicting them as
a group that contains and condenses all the complexities and contradictions of the city. Through
the study of this counterpoint between a Latino community that uses the city as a mirror and
a mainstream perspective that projects its fears about the future upon the Latino community,
Latino Los Angeles aims to trace the many social anxieties that emerge in the cultural depiction
of the ongoing transition from the traditionally local identity of the Chicano to the broader
national, transnational, and post-national Latina/o identity (p. 173).
One of the main contributions of the book rests on the conversation it establishes among
primary sources written by Chicano, Latino, Latin American, and Euro-American authors.
This approach strengthens the books thesis that recent fictions establish a tight symbolic link
between the presence of Latinos in Los Angeles and the citys environmental, racial, and spatial
challenges. To build his argument, Lpez-Calvo relies on an eco-critical theoretical perspective
that looks at social dynamics within the environmental context in which they are produced.
The books attentive look at the materialization of racism and sexism onto the citys spatial
layout, environmental policies, and the attitudes of its inhabitants towards natural disasters,
enables original and productive readings of the primary materials.
Latino Los Angeles is divided into three main chapters. The first, Environmental Racism
and the Politics of Nature, studies a group of novels by authors ranging from T. C. Boyles,

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Alberto Fuguet, and Hctor Tobar to Luis J. Rodrguez, Gus Fras, Helena Mara Viramontes,
and Mario Acevedo. These works place Latino characters at the centre of the processes that
led to the growth of suburbia in Los Angeles and the criminalization of the inner city after the
Watts uprisings (1965). Departing from Mike Davis observation that in Los Angeles news and
popular culture the urban underclass becomes bestialized as predators, wilding youth,
and wolf packs (Davis, 1999: 208), Lpez-Calvo delineates the existence in the mainstream
imagination of a symbolic knot that links Latinos, Chicanos, and Latin American immigrants
with natural disasters, gradual and violent takeover of urban space, and environmental
degradation. The chapter ends with an extended analysis of two novels that place ecology and
the environment at the center of their thematic and aesthetic concerns: Alejandro Morales
science fiction tale of environmental dystopia in The Rag Doll Tales and John Rechys
exploration of the survival of nature in the midst of the city in Bodies and Souls.
The books second chapter, The Marginalization of Latino Urban Youth, explores a cluster
of works that show how institutional policies and practices work to generate and perpetuate
the disenfranchisement of the Latino community. Some of these works, like Mona Ruizs
autobiography Two Badges, Rudolfo Anayas novel The Curse of the Chupacabra, or films
like Mi Vida Loca, are read as denunciations of the spectacularization of gang violence in the
media and the entertainment industry. Another group of narratives, ranging from Yxta Maya
Murrays novel Locas to Moctezuma Esparzas film Walkout, represent the school system as a
factory of marginalization that systematically alienates Latino youth from the mainstream
of the city and the nation. Many of these works depict the actions of the LAPD as those
of a camouflaged and powerful street gang using the same codes of violence and corporative
protection as minority gangs to compete with them for the same territory.
The third chapter, Gendered and Nationalistic Anxieties, explores how gender issues affect
the relation between Los Angeles and its Latino population. Lpez-Calvo sustains that, while
Latino authors have tended to overlook gender issues in their writings, Euro-American writers
have frequently used a superficial understanding of Latino societies to depict sexism as an
ethnic characteristic. Thus, denunciations of Latino machismo like Kate Bravermans Palm
Latitudes end up stigmatizing the whole Latino community by deploying multiculturalism as a
way to cover up a deeply seeded racial anxiety. The book then turns to look at alternative
representations of Latino femininity in the female gangbanger novels of Laura del Fuego and
Ixta Maya Murray.
A reflection on the current de-barrioization of Latino culture and politics and culture
undertaken by writers such as Graciela Limn and Michael Nava concludes the chapter and
the book. Lpez-Calvo describes how these authors question rigid categories of identity
to articulate a variety of post-national politics and search for alternative futures that may
transcend racial anxieties and patterns of social oppression.
The large corpus of primary texts selected for Latino Los Angeles and Lpez-Calvos ability
to trace their thematic commonalities and organize these into a cogent argument makes this an
ambitious critical study and a comprehensive guide to the issue. The sheer number of books
studied, however, also means that the readings become symptomatic for the most part,
suggestive at their best, fragmentary other times. The books theoretical framework follows a
similar pattern, introducing a rich number of perspectives from studies on the social
implications of space and the critique of the underlying racial anxieties at the centre of current
debates on multiculturalism, to the analysis of the ecological dimension in literature and the
feminist critiques of traditional understandings of identity that shed light on specific texts
but are, at times, not fully developed and coordinated. The study depends heavily on the notion
of racial anxiety, a concept that James Kyung Jin-Lee develops in his critique of certain strains
and uses of multiculturalism. In Latino Los Angeles, the concept is mostly used at face value
to question the intentions of those authors looking at Latino communities from the outside,
who instrumentalize them in order to paint their works with a multiculturalist varnish. As
Kyung Jin-Lee demonstrates, however, manifestations of racial anxiety exist both in the group

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that racializes and in the one being racialized (Kyung Jin-Lee, 2004: 145). Also, while
racial anxiety points to unresolved conflicts present in those defending and attacking multiculturalism, it does not fully devalue nor erase the implicit utopian promise of the latter (Kyung
Jin-Lee, 2004: xxx). More attention to the ambivalence and tension that lie at the heart
of racial anxiety, and other critical concepts used in the book, would have been desirable.
While these tasks may be completed in future projects, Latino Los Angeles stands now as a
comprehensive and well articulated study of the many tensions derived from the identitary
interdependence between Los Angeles and its Latino population that will prove extremely
valuable in pointing new directions for Latino studies.

Bibliography
Davis, M. 1999. Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. New York: Vintage.
Kyung Jin-Lee, J. 2004. Urban Triage: Race and the Fictions of Multiculturalism. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press.

State University of New York, Stony Brook

Adrin Prez Melgosa

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