Saturday, April 11, 2009

Corín Tellado: Queen of the Novela Rosa

Corín Tellado, an extremely important figure in romantic fiction written in Spanish, died this morning, aged 81. According to her obituary in El País she was
La autora, la más leída en español después de Miguel de Cervantes, ha publicado más de 4.000 novelas románticas, de las que se han vendido más de 400 millones de ejemplares, a lo largo de su vida.

[The most-read Spanish author after Miguel de Cervantes; in the course of her life she wrote more than 4,000 romantic novels, with more than 400 million copies sold in total.]
There's a "selected bibliography" of her works at Wikipedia.

Her first novel was published on the twelfth of October 1946. According to her website,
Cada una de sus novelas es el reflejo de la realidad inmediata que nos rodea, de las costumbres al uso "Recuerdo que a José Luis Garci le hacía mucha gracia que mis protagonistas tuvieran coche, que mis mujeres condujesen en una época en que en España la costumbre todavía no estaba extendida".

[Each of her novels reflects the reality of daily life, of contemporary mores: "I remember that José Luis Garci was very amused by the fact that my protagonists had cars, that my female characters drove in a period when that still wasn't common in Spain."]
Another reality of the time in which she began her career was censorship:
"Cultural censorship played a vital role in Franco's regime. It was perhaps the most effective element of the dictatorship, without which Franco would not have been able to control Spanish society" (Itziar, 1999:54). Franco's aim was to preserve his regime's ideology and isolate Spanish culture from foreign influences. In order to achieve that, his censorship had to be concerted and it was thus carried out by three departments: the Book Censorship section, the Cinema and Theater Department and the Information and Censorship section.

All three departments were responsible for banning every artistic work that posed a threat to the regime's ideology. Sexual morality, politics, religion and the use of language were the main sensitive issues with regard to censorship. As far as books were concerned, not only was pre-publication censorship by the government established, but works were also subjected to self-censorship by the author or translator and editorial censorship by publishers. (Keratsa)
Romantic fiction, by its very nature, tends to tell stories which touch on issues of sexual morality, and the dictatorship promoted it for this reason:
The promotion of the novela rosa, or romance novel, in the Spain of the Generalísimo was intended to expose Spaniards to a particular moral attitude that would further distance them from the sexual liberalism tolerated in some democratic nations. [...] The romantic stories of authors such as Trini de Figueroa, María Teresa Sese, María Adela Durango, María Teresa Largo, José Marzo, and Carlos Santander, to name but a few, were viewed by the Franco regime as a way to promote a Catholic vision of love. (Faura, Godsland and Moody 47)
Under Franco "moral censorship policed profanity, obscenity, and eroticism, demanding 'buenas costumbres' ('proper behavior') in public and print" (Pérez 628). Tellado acknowledged that censorship had shaped her writing:
"Recuerdo una novela en que dejé al protagonista ciego. El editor me la devolvió con una carta en la que pedía: "¡opéralo!". Y lo operé, claro. En cuanto a mi estilo, fue la censura quien lo perfiló. Algunas novelas venían con tantos subrayados que apenas quedaba letra en negro. Me enseñaron a insinuar, a sugerir más que a mostrar".

["I remember writing a novel in which I left the hero blind. My editor sent it back to me with a letter in which he asked: "Operate on him!" And I did operate, of course. As far as my style is concerned, it was honed by censorship. Some novels came back with so much underlining there was barely a letter left black. They taught me to insinuate things, to suggest more than show."] (from her website)
As Faura, Godsland and Moody note, despite the censorship that was in place,
some writers were able to write novels which contained comments made by their characters alongside ambiguous events that evidence a disparity between what was actually articulated and what was implied. We suggest that the rosa fiction of Corín Tellado best exemplifies this tendency.
Corín Tellado is foremost among novela rosa writers of the twentieth century. (50)
She continued working right to the end, having just finished her last novel on Wednesday (according to the obituary in El Mundo).

Her novels have been analysed in a number of works, including:

  • Álvarez, Blanca. Corín Tellado. Madrid: Grupo Libro 88, 1991.
  • Carmona González, Angeles. Corín Tellado: el erotismo rosa. Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 2002.
  • Erhart, Virginia. “Amor, Ideología y Enmascaramiento en Corín Tellado.” Imperialismo y Medios Masivos de Comunicación. Casa de las Americas 77 (1973): 93-101.
  • Erhart, Virginia. "Amor y consumo en las novelas de Corin Tellado." Cuadernos de Comunicación 2.17 (1976): 16-21.
  • Faura, Salvador, Shelley Godsland, and Nickianne Moody. "The Romance Novel, or, the Generalisimo's Control of the Popular Imagination." Reading the Popular in Contemporary Spanish Texts. Newark, DE: U of Delaware P., 2004. 46-58.
  • Mabee, Norma Augusta. La novela rosa de Corín Tellado: Desorden, conflicto y escape de la ectopia. Dissertation Abstracts International 54.4 (1993): 1357A-1357A.
  • Mendez Jose Luis. "The Novels of Corin Tellado." Studies in Latin American Popular Culture 5 (1986):31-40.

A longer obituary in El País (also in Spanish) can be found here.

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