GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Spanish author Almudena Grandes told EFE that the bleak failure of the characters in her books reflects the failure of an entire nation, and her new work “Los Pacientes del Doctor Garcia” (The Patients of Dr. Garcia) is again about those who resisted the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in a country that was “a victim of the Cold War.”
In what is the fourth installment of the series “Episodios de una Guerra Interminable” (Episodes of an Endless War) being presented at Mexico’s International Book Fair (FIL) in Guadalajara, the story penetrates the network of Nazi criminals from Germany who managed to escape to Latin America through Spain.
Meanwhile two men in the novel, hiding behind fake identities, aim to expose that clandestine network, encouraged by the same hopes as the heroes in previous episodes – that their efforts will succeed when the Allies, following their victory in World War II, invade Spain and rout the dictator Franco.
Today, saying that those who held such hopes were “ingenuous” is “very easy and very stupid, because according to their reasoning, that had to happen,” the author told EFE in an interview.
“We Spaniards aren’t aware of it, but Spain was a direct victim of the Cold War,” Grandes said, meaning that the bloc led by the United States decided not to intervene in the country because “anything was useful in the fight against Stalin, and Franco had defined himself as a fierce anti-Communist.”
The “sadness and loneliness” that surround the characters of her saga reflect the desolation of “Spanish history,” which is why she decided to use, as an introduction to the novel, some verses by Gil de Biedma that say the “saddest story is that of Spain, because it ends badly.”
“And this novel recounts that sad ending,” she said.
When she got hold of the book “La Guarida del Lobo” (The Wolf’s Lair) by journalist Javier Juarez, Grandes learned about a woman called Clara Stauffer, leader in Spain of the escape network for Third Reich refugees, who became her inspiration when she started writing the novel.
Stauffer, a member of the Feminine Section of Franco’s Falange party, was “a gift for the novelist” because of the events surrounding her life, but also for her character.”
“She worked on behalf of evil, she was dedicated to saving war criminals...but did it with such selflessness and generosity, she was almost maternal in her relations with Nazi refugees, which made her a very special individual,” Grandes said.
What Stauffer did, she said, is unknown to most citizens, but “Spanish historians did their work,” and know very well who were the links between Franco’s Spain and Nazi Germany.
“But society in general doesn’t know all that. I didn’t know it,” the author admitted.
In the novel, back and forth between Madrid, Berlin and Buenos Aires, Grandes reveals moments hidden from history, like when 200 students prepared in 1946 “to take over Madrid when the UN kicked Franco out of power,” which of course never happened.