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My Mother, That Stranger

Letters from the Spanish Civil War

Dr. Concha Alborg was born in Valencia, Spain. She has lived in the United States since the 1960s. For over twenty years she was a professor of contemporary Spanish literature at Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. Her academic publications include: Cinco figuras en torno a la novela de posguerra: Galvarriato, Soriano, Formica, Boixadós y Aldecoa (1993), a critical edition of Caza menor by Elena Soriano (1992), Temas y técnicas en la narrativa de Jesús Fernández Santos (1984), and numerous articles and reviews. A full publishing biography is provided on the press website.


Over eight-hundred letters were written between the author’s newly-engaged parents during the time that her father was on the Republican war front fighting against Franco’s forces, and her mother awaiting the end of the war. Her father, Professor Juan Luis Alborg, would live to become a well-known literary historian and critic. Her mother’s life, on the other hand, was overshadowed by her husband’s academic celebrity. The letters were discovered whilst preparing for a symposium marking the centenary of her father's birth, celebrated at the University of Malaga in 2014.

This unique memoir is a microhistory of the Spanish Civil War at an individual level; it illuminates the ‘official story’ as told in history books at multiple levels. Her mother’s personal narrative adds to the understanding of this significant time because she shows how a family lived in the midst of war. A primary relevance is that she lived in Valencia, which in November 1936 become the official capital of the Republican government. Working in a government co-op gave her an insider’s view of the ongoing political and military situation. She describes the contrasting burdens between family life in Valencia, and the life of her fiancé soldier on the southern frontlines. The author’s mother is exemplary of the women who were formed under the liberal Second Spanish Republic (1931–39) only to be silenced during Franco’s repressive dictatorship (1939–75). The long-lost letters made Concha Alborg realize how little she understood her mother’s passion to set down complex feelings in the most difficult of circumstances. My Mother, That Stranger will be of interest to Hispanists, historians and literary critics for its uniqueness on the epistolary genre and gender studies, and to the general public as a heartfelt family memoir.


Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies


Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-030-9
Paperback Price: £24.95 / $34.95
Release Date: November/December 2019
   
Page Extent / Format: 240 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes
   

e-Book



Acknowledgments
INTRODUCTION, FINDING THE LETTERS
                  A box in the attic
                  The oldest of seven
                  A New Year's Day party
                 

CONCHITA'S LETTERS
                  An unknown calligraphy
                  Escaping to the cinema
                 
TWO VISIONS OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
                  In Valencia
                  On the front lines
                 
                 
A PYGMALION STORY
                  Her readings
                  Deconstruction of a poem
                  A book trader


TERMS OF ENDEARMENT
                  The ideal interlocutor
                  Such an ugly man
                  His beloved
                 
LINGUISTIC STYLE
                  The Valencian language
                  Popular sayings
                  Repetitions and imitations

DISCOVERING MY MOTHER
                  A woman of her times
                  Food for the body and soul           
                  My mother as a mother


RECOGNIZING MY FATHER
                  The Don Juan character
                  A Titan of a man

 FAMILY MATTERS
                  Her siblings
                  His stepmother

EXEMPLARY LETTERS
                  August 2, 1937: "When I am Alborg´s wife"          
                  November 19, 1937: "Until there remains a breath of life in me"
                  December 23, 1938: "Will this separation ever end?"
                  January 3, 1939: "We are going to be very happy"
                  March 21, 1939: "I don't know how long this infernal war can last"

LIFE IN SPAIN
                  Valencia and Madrid: two gardens to stroll by
                  Letters from 1946 and 1953

LIFE IN THE UNITED STATES
                  The language barrier
                  An immigrant story: From Seattle to the Midwest
                  A short life lived

EPILOGUE, DETERMINING THE TRUTH
                  The nonagenarian
                  The book dedications


APPENDIX: SOME OF MY MOTHER'S RECIPES
                  Recipes in the letters and my mother's notebook
                  Cauliflower Béchamel for unexpected guests
                  My mother´s Valencian Paella
                  Stuffed Flank Steak in a letter
                  "Rollitos;" Christmas Anisette Cookies
                  From the old World to the New: "Cocido Madrileño" and Tortilla Soup

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX


Review Quotes to Follow


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