One of the reasons why I love The Nation is because they always publish reviews of books by really amazing writers. I was very happy to find out that they published an article on the incredibly talented Catalan writer Merce Rodoreda*.
Rodoreda's most famous novel has been translated into English under the title The Time of the Doves. The central conclusion that this beautifully wirtten novel draws about being a woman in a patriarchal society is that
Natalia, the protagonist of this unconventional female Bildungsroman, leaves her kind and loving boyfriend for the sake of an abusive and profoundly chauvinistic man called Quimet. She is drawn to Quimet because of a powerful sexual attraction he exercises over her. Natalia's marriage to this man is disastrous in all respects but one: she reaches profound sexual fulfillment with him.
When Quimet dies in a war, Natalia finds herself on the brink of starvation. She feels so desperate that she decides to kill herself and her two small children. A kind shop-owner figures out what she is trying to do and offers Natalia to marry him. Natalia does not love this man and has nothing in common with him. Besides, the war has left her new husband impotent.
The new husband is nice and kind to Natalia and her children. She, however, cannot be satisfied with this tepid relatiosnhip and has to struggle long and hard to get used to her empty existence where the only thing her marriage gives her is food.
This is a truly tragic novel about painful choices, about how the patriarchal society traps a woman and offers her no way out of an existence that will always be based on compromising her interests, desires, and her very possibility to be happy.
*Thank you, my dear friend Oli, for bringing this review to my attention.