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Spanish Literature  
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Here we find the most sympathetic portrayals of gays to date, although it would be naive to assume that homosexuality is now generally accepted as a viable alternative in Spain. In some of these texts, homosexuals are still secondary characters. In most cases, they are also still used as symbols.

But rather than symbolizing decadence and depravity, in post-Franco literature homosexuals frequently signify insubordination against the oppressive morality imposed for four decades by the Franco regime.

Homosexuality in the Works of Women Writers

It is perhaps natural, and certainly noteworthy, that Spain's women writers are in the forefront of making homosexuality more palatable to the common reader. Women have greater cause to rebel against the patriarchal tradition than male writers.

The insurrection in these new works is directed against the silence imposed by censorship and a reactionary adherence to Catholic dogma during the earlier Franco years. In the Franco era, there were many things that women were expected to keep silent and much knowledge that was off-limits to them.

Sexuality was definitely a taboo subject, as were political attitudes that strayed from the official one. By tackling the theme of homosexuality, the new women writers can confront both political and sexual issues simultaneously.

In many of the texts written by Spain's new women authors, we can also detect the subtle influence of a strand of feminist criticism that views lesbianism as the ultimate expression of the female subject. Perhaps it is because of this that lesbians have fared better in recent literary treatment than have gay males.

One of the most significant of the cadre of post-Franco women writers is Esther Tusquets, known for her trilogy on the themes of female attachments (not always lesbian in the strictest sense of the word) and the dissatisfaction and disintegration of heterosexual relationships.

When lesbianism appears in her fiction, it is graphic, sensual, and erotically charged. Despite this sexual explicitness, Tusquets has enjoyed, for the most part, the advantage of not being marginalized as a lesbian author.

Her first novel, El mismo mar de todos los veranos (The Same Sea as Every Summer), was published in 1978. Its middle-aged female narrator-protagonist (known only as E), experiences a midlife crisis that leads her to seek fulfillment outside traditional bounds. Having experienced a lonely childhood and two failed heterosexual relations, she begins a painful search for authenticity that will include a rejection of the values and traditions of her social class and a search for self-realization and self-expression.

At this level, numerous parallels can be drawn between this novel and that of another Catalan author, Juan Goytisolo. His novel, Señas de identidad, reflects many of the same themes, only from a male point of view.

Central to Tusquets's novel is the love affair with Clara, a young, Colombian student. The relationship with Clara is carefully poised against the decadent society that has annihilated the narrator's will and that will, acting through the protagonist's family, eventually destroy the relationship.

Nevertheless, authentic homosexual love in Tusquets's work leads to renewal of the self. Those who truly love experience a rebirth, whereas those who cannot love experience a form of death. The relationship with Clara is the most meaningful one that the narrator has had--the one that brings her the closest to self-awareness and self-realization. Both Clara and the protagonist overcome the traditional boundaries of the self through their relationship.

Tusquets endows her characters with individuality. There is no prototypical homosexual within her text. Clara is utterly different from the narrator, and lesbianism becomes a dynamic that is defined collaboratively between the two.

Tusquets's second novel, El amor es un juego solitario (Love is a Solitary Game [1973]), deals with a conjectural love triangle among three characters--Elia, Clara, and Ricardo. It provides a psychoanalysis of the motives and emotions of the three as they approach their intended threesome.

Clara (not the same as the earlier novel) is a naive lesbian who gives in to her desires. She eventually agrees to the threesome out of authentic feelings of love for Elia and is ultimately the only one of the three who feels love more strongly than lust. Although it is true that her feelings allow her to be used by the other two, they also provide her with the strength and courage to reject them.

In 1979, Rosa Montero published Crónica del desamor (Chronicle of Disaffection). Through a staunchly feminist perspective, the novel examines many themes that in the Franco era were strictly taboo: unwed mothers, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, among them.

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