Which is entitled “The mother of Frankenstein” seems to me the best of the five novels of the series “Episodes of an endless war”, dethroning my favorite so far, “The reader of Jules Verne” (2012). It is no coincidence that, being both long novels, they are the two in which Almudena Grandes has contained more his proverbial taste for the breadth of narrative meanings, aware as he is of his ability as a born narrator, in the line of the nineteenth-century novel realistic call. As with the other postwar novels, Almudena Grandes addresses different issues of the two years he focuses on (1955-1956), the madness in the female asylum of Ciempozuelos de Aurora Rodríguez Carballeira, a historical figure who murdered his brilliant daughter Hildegart , an event that has received previous literary treatments from both Fernán Gómez and Rafael Azcona and Fernando Arrabal. There is a real option of Great for separating from these precedents, and in fact he is very interested in the personality of the patient, beyond the case of murder. Trace an excellent figure, to which he grants very successful passages as a narrator.
Together with her, the other two storytellers stand out: the nursing assistant María Castejón, with whom Almudena Grandes pays tribute to the Fortunados galdosiana, and the psychiatrist Germán Velázquez, who as a professional modernizer of Spanish psychiatry owes much to the figure of Carlos Castilla del Pino , whose two excellent autobiographical books denounced the deficits for which a deeply ideological autarchy had kept Spanish psychiatry isolated during the postwar period. Along with Velázquez there are two other characters of great interest, such as the homosexual psychiatrist, Eduardo Méndez, and José Luis Robles, who played possible political tricks.
The contexts of the radical destitution of the sick, but also the sinister politics of National Catholicism, allows Almudena Grandes a critical radiography that does not disguise its militancy (Almudena Grandes never does) but enriches it with figures of great humanistic significance such as the nun Sister Belén, superior of the asylum, whose complicity with Velázquez provides one of the highlights of the novel, showing the way of how humanism could defend itself from both secularism and religious piety. As counter-figures, Sister Anselma and Father Armenteros star in impious crusades that leave the reader’s heart frozen.
The “flashback” narratives that run through the life in the Swiss exile of Germán Velázquez allow Almudena Grandes to delve into the excellent figure of the German Jewish psychiatrist Samuel Goldstein, who is a teacher and mentor of Velázquez, but whose family plot provides excellent pages of life of exiled Jews from Germany and the difficult survival of Goldstein’s secularism in front of his wife and daughters, when the tragedy of the Holocaust looms over them. «Frankenstein’s mother» executes a double condition of style in which Almudena Grandes reigns: the tracing of the characters; She is a novelist of characters and environments, properly Galdosian for it. The other is his ability as a plot builder, in a novel that can be read as a novel, but where this time he has avoided motley. For this reason I thought it was excellent.
“Frankenstein’s mother.” Almudena Grandes
Narrative. Tusquets, 2020. 556 pages. 21.75 euros.