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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Carmen Laforet

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | review and reception notes | links | about the author

To purchase Nada

Title: Nada
Author: Carmen Laforet
Genre: Novel
Written: 1945 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 244 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Nada - US
Nada - US (Spanish)
Nada - UK
Nada - Canada
Nada - France
Nada - Deutschland
  • Spanish title: Nada
  • Translated by Edith Grossman
  • Introduction by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Awarded the Premio Nadal in 1944
  • Previously translated as Andrea by Charles F. Payne (1964) and as Nada by Glafyra Ennis (1993)

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Didn't take to it at first try, put it aside to try again later

Chances that we will review it:


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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 20/1/2006 Walter Haubrich
The Guardian A+ 23/6/2007 Alberto Manguel
The Independent A 2/2/2007 Michael Eaude
New Statesman . 5/3/2007 Anita Sethi
The NY Times Book Rev. . 15/4/2007 Fernanda Eberstadt
The Telegraph . 4/3/2007 Ian Thomson
The Times . 4/8/2007 Margaret Reynolds
TLS . 16/3/2007 Matthew Tree
The Washington Post A 18/2/2007 Jonathan Yardley
Die Welt . 21/1/2006 Max Hermann

  Review Consensus:

  Almost all very impressed -- with a lot of harping on how young she was when she wrote it

  From the Reviews:
  • "Carmen Laforet vermeidet Gemeinplätze, abgebrauchte Wendungen und die damals in Spaniens Literatur üblichen rhetorischen Floskeln. Es ist eine präzise, von Susanne Lange in ein adäquates Deutsch gebrachte Sprache, die den spannenden Roman so authentisch macht und auch heute noch überzeugend wirken läßt." - Walter Haubrich, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The author was 23, and it is hard to understand how someone so young, within the isolation of Franco's Spain, should have been able to produce such an accomplished novel, so powerful in its story and so polished in its style. (…) Laforet died almost exactly three years ago, after having converted to Catholicism in 1951 and published several novels and collections of short stories no doubt more carefully written, no doubt better structured than Nada , but lacking the fiery genius of her first, incandescent masterpiece." - Alberto Manguel, The Guardian

  • "It still surprises that this powerful, albeit implicit, indictment of Franco's dictatorship got past the censors. At the time, it was seen as a sensationalist novel about violent, mad, abnormal people. Today, when Nada is recognised as one of the few great novels to be written during the dictatorship, its portrayal of a crushed, starving middle-class family in a sordid Barcelona reveals how violent abnormality was the norm of life under fascism. (…) Among the hysteria, Laforet's voice is calm and clear -- and in this contrast lies some of Nada's greatness. There are several registers, though, in this remarkably sophisticated novel." - Michael Eaude, The Independent

  • "Stylistically, Laforet favours short, taut sentences that contain the wild, destructive energies raging about the novel. (…) This spare, realist style conjures a world shrouded in a sense of unreality, where "wan, greenish lights" skew the vision and even those closest seem ghostly, far from flesh and blood, their physically undefined contours metaphorical of a world in which relationships are unclear and the boundaries between people disturbed. Written when she was only 23, the novel suffers from the flaws of a Bildungsroman. Despite the stylistic tautness, its emotion is worn on its sleeve." - Anita Sethi, New Statesman

  • "(T)he book's odd charm is undiminished. (…) What gives the novel its unlikely freshness is the contrast between the melodramas to which Andrea is witness and the humorous restraint of her narration. While the old folks writhe in a hell of their own making, Andrea stalwartly goes about the business of being young: studying for exams, befriending a group of would-be Bohemian student-painters, attending her first dance, getting kissed by a boy she doesn't like." - Fernanda Eberstadt, The New York Times Book Review

  • "In pages of precise, finely-tuned prose, Spain emerges as a country obsessed by death and religious sufferance. Franco, with his thorny asceticism, used to keep St Teresa's mummified hand by his bedside. And Nada, with its bleak biblical imagery, conjures a Goyasque world of emotional flagellants and wife-beaters. (…) Laforet explores her heroine's burgeoning sexuality with an emotional maturity which would be impressive in a novelist twice her age: Andrea, with her brazen self-exploration, is a marvellous creation." - Ian Thomson, The Telegraph

  • "A lot happens in Nada and every breathless page seems laden with significance. The catastrophe comes in the end -- but it is not as we might imagine. (…) For all its bizarre verismo, Nada is a parable about the effects of civil war. In the immediate background lie memories of betrayal, cruelty, loss, ugliness and pain. (…) Laforet’s "nothing" is a substantial legacy." - Margaret Reynolds, The Times

  • "Carmen Laforet might easily have fallen into the temptation of painting her fictional canvas a doleful and monotonous black; instead she blessed her protagonist with a voice that is at once lyrical, precise and unsettlingly honest. (…) Edith Grossman's translation makes the rich, dense descriptions which abound in the novel sound perfectly natural in English; not a beat is missed, not an adjective misplaced. Let us hope that her fine readable version will enable Nada to achieve, in the English-reading world, the perennial popularity of a great twentieth-century novel." - Matthew Tree, Times Literary Supplement

  • "(A) coming-of-age novel that is far more mature and stylistically accomplished than the most famous American example of the genre, J.D. Salinger's vastly overrated The Catcher in the Rye. (…) Its frank, unsparing depiction of Barcelona in the aftermath of Spain's destructive 1936-39 Civil War caused a sensation, and its spare literary style -- impeccably rendered by Grossman -- had considerable influence on subsequent Spanish and European literature. (…) (A) grim book, but it is far from humorless, and it declines to pass simplistic judgment on any of its characters. (…) That this complex, mature and wise novel was written by someone in her early 20s is extraordinary." - Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

  • "Eine sensationell frische, sensationell zeitgemäße Prosa ist das immer noch." - Max Hermann, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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Notes about the Reviews
and the Book's Reception

       A modern Spanish classic, Nada never really seems to have caught hold in the US (or UK), but this third translation got a good amount of enthusiastic attention upon publication (in 2007), so it remains to be seen if that finally does the trick.
       (Note that the Germans also saw the recent publication of the book as a 'discovery' -- so it doesn't seem to have entirely established itself there either.)

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Nada: Reviews: Carmen Laforet: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Carmen Laforet lived 1921 to 2004.

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© 2007-2010 the complete review

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