Elena Fortún and Matilde Ras

Unpublished works of Spanish feminist writers uncover Spain’s hidden past

Spain’s most famous children’s author Elena Fortún and companion Matilde Ras, a fellow feminist writer, are the subject of a new anthology which uncovers previously hidden diaries, a series of unpublished literature and evocative letters between the two whilst in exile.

Professor Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles, an expert in Hispanic and Gender Studies at the University of Exeter, has written the extensive introduction to ‘Elena Fortún y Matilde Ras. El camino es nuestro’ and selected the texts with collaborator Dr MJ Fraga (Universidad Complutense, Madrid). The anthology is written in Spanish and highlights Fortún and Ras as major 20th century avant garde writers. As female intellectuals active during the Spanish Second Republic, Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship their contributions to literature, journalism and feminist thought were largely forgotten on becoming political exiles. 

However, Fortún’s bestselling books about the famous character ‘Celia’ remain a staple across the Spanish speaking world. The 20 volume saga of her life with her family from age 7 to 18 years spans the period from the years before the Second Republic to dictatorship. Celia is nearly 100 years old since first published. The stories are still taught in schools, widely read and became a popular TV series, ensuring that generations of children continue to read or watch ‘Celia’ and enjoy other characters in the saga such as her brother Cuchifritín, little sister Mila, who travels in Spain dressed as a boy or her naughty cousin Matonkikí. The great popularity of Celia with generations of Spaniards and Latin Americans stems from Fortún’s ability to continue publishing during the dictatorship without aligning herself with the educational principles of the regime, unlike other children’s authors in Spain.

Ras was an internationally renowned graphologist, a specialist who interprets and analyses handwriting. She worked for both French and Spanish national papers and was the first to write a foundation book about graphology, which is considered the most important work on the discipline and is still used today.

The anthology also explains, through moving letters and diaries written during their respective exiles in America and Portugal, the love relationship between the authors.  

Professor Capdevila-Arguelles explained:“It has taken many years to get access to the archives of these writers. Dr Fraga, my collaborator, and I are delighted to be leading this revival of Fortún. Throughout 2015 more critical editions of Fortún will be appearing, this time with Editorial Renacimiento, a leading Spanish publisher in cultural documents and key academic editor. Two more unpublished novels, one by Fortún and another written with Ras will also see the light this year. These are highly valuable testimonies of the public and private life of New Women or Modern Women in Spain.”

The publication is in Spanish and was recently launched in Madrid, at the Cervantes Institute, the largest worldwide promoter of Spanish Culture. The anthology has received significant media attention in Spain and Latin America since its launch. The book is part of the highly acclaimed Obra Fundamental Collection, a series of critical editions of unpublished work by key authors brought out by the prestigious Fundación Banco de Santander in collaboration with leading writers and critics such as Juan Manuel de Prada, Domingo Ródenas, Jordi Gracia, Ana Rodríguez Fischer and Professor Capdevila-Argüelles.  

Fundación Banco de Santander is a separate philanthropic arm from Santander Universities, a University of Exeter’s collaboration since 2009. Fundación Banco de Santander is a private institution with a clear cultural, humanistic and scientific commitment. Through its many activities it also rescues writers from oblivion, reviews historical episodes, and supports sustainability and the recovery of Spain’s national heritage. Fundación Banco has an outstanding reputation for supporting the promotion of Hispanic culture in Spain and abroad.






Date: 9 February 2015

Read more University News