Marsé Carbó, Juan

Marsé Carbó, Juan
b. 1933, Barcelona
   Marsé left school at thirteen, worked as a jewellery-maker and started writing short stories in 1959. His first and most autobiographical novel, Encerrados con un solo juguete (Shut In With Only One Toy), was published in 1961. Like many writers of the mid-twentieth century, he depicts with stark realism the sense of hope-lessness expressed either in apathy or in revolt by the young growing up under Francoism. Passive or dissident, his protagonists adopt stances establishing an ironic distance between them and the situations they encounter. Through them Marsé explores the social, political and religious myths behind the reigning ideologies of the period. In Ultimas tardes con Teresa (Last Evenings with Teresa) (1966) the student activist Teresa, from a wealthy middle-class family, tries to help Manuel, whom she idealizes as a working-class militant. In fact, he is unemployed, a thief, and sees Teresa as his passport to social advancement. Through their relationship Marsé exposes the deceptive fictional nature of the mythic identities they create for one other.
   In La oscura historia de la prima Montse (Montse's Dark Story) (1970) the narrator, Paco, is implicated in the story he tells. Attempting to reconstruct events eight years after they occurred, Paco offers various interpretations complicated by hindsight and his need for selfjustification, exploring the potential for deception in subjective narration. The Fallen (Si te dicen que caí) (1973), also told in retrospect, consists of fictions consciously created and constantly altered by children who draw on experience, rumour, films and imagination, combining stark realism with extravagant fantasy in playfully contradictory confusion. The manipulation of information is central to the narrative in La muchacha de las bragas de oro (The Girl with the Golden Panties) (1978), in which a former Falangist historian tries to make the past more acceptable as he writes his autobiography, discovering, however, that the fiction he creates is closer to the truth than the memories he tries to deny. Then, in mocking self-parody Marsé focuses on the ambivalence of language itself in El amante bilingüe (The Bilingual Lover) (1990). His virtual homonym Juan Marés tries to become the gipsy-like lover for whom his wealthy Catalan wife has left him. Marés" personality disintegrates, his bilingualism degenerates into meaningless babble and narration itself is destroyed. Writing about the repression and hardship of the 1940s, student and worker movements of the 1950s, the economic boom and progressive ideals of the 1960s, and the reemergence of democracy and Catalan nationalism in the 1970s, Marsé undermines the credibility of history, of those who tell it, and of language itself. Dreams, myths and fantasies, and the collective memory of a community, provide a provocative alternative reading of the Franco years.
   Further reading
   - Barral, C. (1975) Años de penitencia, Madrid: Alianza Editorial (an autobiography providing useful points of comparison with Marsé"s novels).
   - Labanyi, J. (1989) Myth and history in the contemporary Spanish novel, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (an illuminating discussion of The Fallen as "corrupt narrative").

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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