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Almudena Grandes, Novelist of Spain’s Marginalized, Dies at 61

Several of Ms. Grandes’s novels are set during the Franco dictatorship. One of her more recent best sellers in Spain — “El Corazón Helado” (“The Frozen Heart”), publishd in 2007 — starts with the funeral of a powerful businessman, attended by a mysterious woman, during which an inheritance of money and documents comes to light and helps unravel a troubled family saga dating back to the ravages of the Spanish Civil War.

It was on the back of the success of “The Frozen Heart” that Ms. Grandes started her six-novel series, set during the first 25 years of Franco’s dictatorship, from 1939 to 1964. She called her project “Episodios de una Guerra Interminable” (“Episodes in an Interminable War”), akin to one of Spain’s most famous literary series, the “Episodios Nacionales” (“National Episodes”), written by Benito Pérez Galdós in the late 19th century.

The first book in Ms. Grandes’s series, “Inés y la alegría” (“Inés and Happiness”), which was published in 2010 and won three literary prizes, tells the story of a group of left-wing guerrillas fighting Franco’s forces. Last year, the fourth installment in her series, “Los pacientes del doctor García” (“The Patients of Doctor García”), won the Jean Monnet Prize for European Literature, as well as the prestigious National Prize for Narrative, awarded by the Spanish culture ministry. Her last published novel was the fifth installment in the series, “La madre de Frankenstein” (“The Mother of Frankenstein”), released in 2020.

In an opinion article in The New York Times in 2013, Ms. Grandes recalled the poverty as well as the dignity of many residents of Madrid in the 1960s, a time when “curiosity was a dangerous vice for Spanish children.” She denounced the self-censorship that has continued to shroud Spanish society, even after its return to democracy.

“Later they told us we had to forget,” she wrote, “that to build a democracy it was essential to look forward, to pretend nothing had happened. And by forgetting the bad, we also erased the good.”

Joan Tarrida, who heads another Spanish publisher, Galaxia Gutenberg, said Ms. Grandes had “followed the great 19th-century literary tradition of highlighting social problems by creating characters with whom her readership could really connect.”

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