León, María Teresa

León, María Teresa
b. 1904, Logroño; d. 1988, Madrid
   Writer
   Rejecting her conservative, upper-middle-class background, León—an early feminist—joined the ranks of social revolutionaries during the years of the Second Republic. She married the poet Rafael Alberti, whose avant-garde beginnings and renunciation of "art for art's sake" in favour of committed literature match her own artistic trajectory. Early experimentalism imbues La bella del mal amor (The Beauty Wrongly Loved) (1930), brief tales blending traditional and rural themes and medievalism, and Rosa-fría, patinadora de la luna (Cold Rosa, Skater of the Moon) (1934), which combines fantasy with lyricism. Aesthetics give way to ideological combativeness,
   Naturalism and Marxism in Cuentos de la España actual (Tales of Spain Today) (1937), realistic stories of class struggle, street clashes, arson, violence and hatred, clearly Marxist in depicting proletarian revolt, bourgeois indolence, and pervasive social injustice. These stories and those of Una estrella roja (A Red Star) (1979) reflect León's own ideological awakening: in one, an upper-class girl watches with mixed feelings as Anarchists torch her convent school; in another, the death of the pre-adolescent daughter of a terrorist, trained to plant bombs, is commemorated by communist workers who award her a red star. León also wrote the documentary Crónica general de la Guerra Civil (General Chronicle of the Civil War) (1937) early in the conflict, and a more abstract novel reflecting wartime experiences, Contra viento y marea (Against Wind and Tide) (1941), which views life as a struggle against overwhelming odds.
   León collaborated in defending the Republic, working with Antonio Machado and the National Council for the Theatre. She campaigned in support of workers and the poor, and with Alberti founded a short-lived popular theatre, recounted in the wartime autobiographical novel Juego limpio (Playing Fair) (1959). The short story collection, Morirás lejos (You'll Die Far Away) (1942), treats war and exile, while La historia time la palabra (History Has the Final Word) (1977) recounts efforts, in which Alberti and León participated, to save national artistic treasures from bombardments and capture by Falangists. At the end of the war she accompanied Alberti to exile in France and Argentina, then moved in the 1960s to Rome where they remained until convinced in the 1980s that Spain's democracy would last. In exile, León wrote fictional biographies of Cervantes and the post-Romantic poet, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, plus historical fiction for juvenile readers starring El Cid Campeador (The Warrior Lord) (1962) and Doña Jimena Díaz de Vivar (1960). Las peregrinaciones de Teresa (Teresa's Pilgrimage) (1950) explores feminine psychology in nine stories linked by the symbolic character of Teresa, while Fábulas del tiempo amargo (Bitter Times Fables) (1962) and Memoria de la melancolía (Melancholy's Memoir) (1970) recreate exile experiences. Sonríe China (China Smiles) (1958) records a visit with Alberti to the People's Republic.
   Major works
   The commemorative volume María Teresa León (1987), Valladolid: Junta de Castilla y León, contains a useful bibliography.
   Further reading
   - Bauer, B.W. (1993) " María Teresa Leon (1904–1988)" in L.G.Levine el al. (eds) Spanish Women Writers: A BioBibliographical Source Book, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 253–63 (a useful brief overview).
   - Pérez, J. (1988) Contemporary Women Writers of Spain, Boston, MA: G.K.Hall, 45–9 (life and works survey emphasizing narrative volumes).
   - Pochat, M.T. (1989) "María Teresa León, memoria del recuerdo en el exilio", Cuadernos hispanoamericanos 47,374: 135–42 (treats exile experience and its role in her writings).
   - Torres Nebrera, G. (1984) "La obra literaria de María Teresa León (cuentos y teatro)", Anuario de Estudios Filológicos 7: 361–84 (literary history plus rather detailed examination of León's theatrical works and brief fiction).
   JANET PÉREZ

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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