A Woman's Fate
Solitude Victor Català (Caterina Albert)
Translation David H. Rosenthal
Although written under the masculine pseudonym Victor Català, this work by Caterina Albert undoubtedly constitutes the starting point of the exploration of female identity by female writers in modern Catalan literature – prefiguring the work of later and better-known British women writers such as Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing.
For such poetic intensity, mythic richness, and psychological insight, Solitude deserves to be listed with the great novels of its era
David H. Rosenthal, Preface of Solitude
Solitude tells the story of Mila, a peasant girl who makes the mistake of marrying an ineffectual if guileless fellow called Matias and going to live with him in a hermitage high in the mountains. ‘A child of the lowland plains, barren for want of hands, water and fertilizer,’ Mila at first finds the dramatic vistas overwhelming. Gradually, however, she adjusts to the ‘huge, silent mountains that slope into the quiet dusk, which envelopes them in shadow like a darkening cloud,’ as well as to the harsh, wintry life of the ancient complex where she and Matias serve as caretakers.
She will later come down from this mountain retreat alone, mature, and transformed. The ruggedness of the countryside plays an important role in this novel, even to the point of becoming one of its characters – one that interacts intensely with the protagonist and evinces her increasing physical and moral solitude. In her exposed state on the mountain, Mila will also obtain first-hand knowledge of life’s two great forces: good, in the character of old Gaietà, the shepherd, and evil, personified by l’Ànima.
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