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Nada: A Novel (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – February 12, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Available in English for the first time in the U.S., Laforet's moody and sepulchral debut novel, a 1945 Spanish cult classic, has been given new life by acclaimed translator Grossman. The story follows 18-year-old Andrea as she spends a year with crazy relatives in a squalid, ramshackle townhouse on Calle de Aribau in post-Civil War Barcelona. Although Andrea is young, she isn't adventurous or carefree like others her age, and much of the action takes place within her extended family's dank flat or along the melancholic city streets immediately surrounding it. But the narrative is no less interesting because of this, as it leaves plenty of room for the larger-than-life characters that occupy the house to fully flex their gross vitality and charming decrepitude. The violent Uncle Juan and his manic wife, Aunt Gloria; the crusty, devilish, magnetic violinist, Uncle Román; insanely embittered Aunt Angustias; and an oblivious, antiquated grandmother each offer up their own chaotic storylines, while perfectly balancing Andrea's stoic, ruminative personality. To compliment their frenetic vignettes, Andrea's narration is gorgeously expressive, rippling with emotion and meaning. U.S.-bound fans of European lit will welcome this Spanish Gothic to the States with open arms and a half-exasperated, "What took you so long?"
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Nada is a novel of Spain—and of the difficult transition to adulthood. Critics agree that it is a remarkable achievement for so young a voice at the time and one of the best novels written during the Franco regime. Mario Vargas Llosa notes in his introduction that Nada never overtly refers to the Fascist victory, yet "politics weighs on the entire story like an ominous silence." Still, Andrea's grim experiences—from navigating the bizarre terrain of her relatives to brokering friendships and sexual relationships—are far from humorless. Brilliant characterizations, poetic prose, and a clear and sophisticated voice ring true in Edith Grossman's excellent translation. The Los Angeles Times sums up general sentiment: "Nada a coming-of-age novel, but it's also a work of genius, small but indelible."
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812975839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812975833
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. M. Teale on April 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
The setting is around 1941-42, after the Spanish Civil War, when Spain is not involved in World War II but feeling the claustrophobic and repressive aftermath of their national implosion. Other readers will have told you the plot of this novel, but the grand metaphor you need to know about Nada is that Andrea arrives in Barcelona at midnight, and the following year leaves in broad daylight. What joy!

The setting might be Barcelona, Spain, but there is something alarmingly universal about a girl's attempt to overcome the limitations of her family and discover who she is through university-level study. How does a young woman create herself under adverse circumstances? (It's a kind of third-world story that also happens in the so-called first-world.) Early in the novel, Andrea's Aunt Angustias notes that Andrea went to a sort of high school run by nuns, but that it was in a village (one assumes where scholarly achievement was not expected); and we learn that the Barcelona home of her grandmother (with miserable aunt and uncles) is her only chance of creating herself, of attending a university, and escaping through studying literature. In the course of the year, Andrea must navigate some extremely uncomfortable emotions; she loses her best friend, Ena (but finds her again, later). Boyfriends elude her. The irony of all such novels is that it's the horrible family who gives the author the story (in which case there are no villains, only fellow victims). This notion is fully realized in her often vile Uncle Roman, who plays the violin so poignantly that you can hear it in Laforet's words, Grossman's elegant translation.
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Format: Paperback
I wasn't sure I'd like this book at first as so many reviews I'd found called it despondent, sad, etc. I found the book to have sad parts, and yet I found it moving and I liked the heroine for not getting corrupted by all the things surrounding her. I wasn't saddened by the book nor did it depress me. In fact I actually liked the ending and thought it brought closure in a neat way but not an American way with artifice and quaintness.

I don't give many books 5 stars. Most that I really like get 4. Yet there was something about this book that merited this response. I am sad that more young people do not read this book. Then again, I find that Spanish history isn't covered very much in American schools. More English/French and then later Germany/Russia, but not Iberia. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

If I had read this when I was younger I suspect it would have been one of those books I kept rereading growing up. As it is, I will reread it again at some point.

I also agree with others that this book captures the feel of Barcelona. If you like this, try Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

I always wonder what else people read when they love/hate books because I wonder if I would agree with their review or not. Sometimes the things that lead people to give a book a good score would lower its score in my eyes or vice versa. So in that spirit, here's a bit about my reading habits to help you sort that out - I read a lot of European and Asian literature. I don't like most things that make the US Bestseller lists. I do love good mysteries for fun, and some speculative literature. I don't watch much tv.
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Format: Paperback
I have read this book and i think its just one of the greatest stories of all times. It describes the life of a girl, Andrea, who moves to Barcelona to study in a post-war society. She lives in her grandmother's house with her aunt Angustias, her uncles Juan and Roman, Juan's wife, Gloria, their son, and the maid, Antonia. Carmen Laforet perfectly describes every situation, like the impression she got when she first walked into her new home, or her fragile relationship with Ena, the beautiful girl in college, who becomes her best friend, an who also is strangely attracted to Roman. This is the circle of situations in which the story develops. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best book written in Spain during the Franco era. A kind of gothic coming of age story of an 18 year old orphaned young woman who comes to live with her grandmother, uncles and aunts In 1940 Barcelona after the brutal Spanish Civil War. It got by Franco's censors as the author age 24 when she wrote this does not put in any politics related to the war although this war does play a part in the setting. I read it is Spanish and English. The story is suspenseful, beautifully written, and full of fascinating and strange people.
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By A Customer on November 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent novel. From the very beginning Carmen Laforet manages to create a very interesting and convincing atmosphere, the characters are full and the plot does not stagnate. I have read it several times and always enjoyed it.
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Format: Paperback
Carmen Laforet wrote with a quiet beauty. Not really poetic, just an understated elegance. Even the more dramatic or violent scenes have a quieter feeling than you'd expect. Quite impressive for a woman who was in her early twenties when she wrote this book.

The story is said to be somewhat autobiographical. Andrea, aged eighteen, goes to live with her grandmother, aunts, and uncles in Barcelona so she can attend the university. The family lives in greatly reduced circumstances after the Spanish Civil War and the death of the family patriarch. In his intro, Mario Vargas Llosa calls this story a "detailed autopsy of a girl imprisoned in a hungry, half-crazed family on Calle de Aribau." That pretty much sums up the story, although I'd say some of the family members have progressed beyond half-crazed to full-blown madness.
There are secrets revealed and high drama closer to the end of the book, but mostly it is about Andrea's attempts to escape from the loony bin she's living in by walking the streets of Barcelona and spending time with her friends from the university.

This edition is a new translation by Edith Grossman. I am really falling in love with her translation skills. Some translations have a stilted feeling, but Grossman's just flow so smoothly and beautifully.
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