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Goodbye Ramona (1972)

by Neus Real
Through the story of three Barcelona women who represent three generations of the same family, Ramona, adéu (Goodbye Ramona) presents a social and historic mosaic of the city of Barcelona between the end of the nineteenth century and the 1970s. This mosaic is connected, above all, to Montserrat Roig’s need to recover, understand, and accept her own past, in order to leave it behind for good: thus the “goodbye” of the title. The centrality of gender—the novel’s portrayal of a particular version of the past through feminine experience—shows the author’s personal and literary interests and the importance of creating and representing a female vision and voice in the first period of her career.
Ramona, adéu opens and closes with a monologue by Mundeta Ventura that describes her experience as a pregnant woman in search of her husband shortly after the bombing of Barcelona’s Coliseum in March 1938. Within this frame, the narrative alternates between this character’s story and those of her mother and daughter. They are three very different women in diverse time periods and despite this, they share fundamental aspects: the family connection, the name (all three are named Ramona and everyone calls them Mundeta), the importance of their relationships with men, the decisive weight of historical events in their lives, and, above all, the silence they live in and the mutual incomprehension that affects them. The three Mundetas do not really know each other; they do not know each other’s secrets or feelings. This lack of communication explains, at least in part, the character of their reality and the way that they experience it.
The elegant, romantic, and well-off Mundeta Jover marries young to Francisco Ventura. But this timid, mediocre butterfly collector and writer of bad Spanish verse soon dashes her expectations. Then, the young woman focuses on the attentions paid her by a student. Their crucial encounter, strictly sexual (and forced), causes a moral and physical crisis, submerging her in the guilt of adultery (guilt she atones for through religion) and in the final disillusionment of her sentimental ideal. The daughter she bears later, dull as her father, only confirms the emptiness of Mundeta Jover’s life. The diary she writes between December 6, 1984 (two days before her wedding) and January 2, 1919 (the date of her husband’s death) allows us to follow her in her own words through the background of history: the bombing of the Liceu, Tragic Week, the Great War…
Mundeta Claret, her granddaughter, is a young woman of the sixties in Barcelona who sees her grandmother as a serene, wise, and strong person. Despite more opportunities than the women who came before her (she studies for advanced degrees), her political commitment, and her theoretical liberation from the traditional chains of her sex, the existence of this third Mundeta is just as marked by unhappiness. She does not get along with her family (an authoritative father and a mother she finds submissive and bland to the point of exasperation), and she does not find what she needs at university, either. Her relationship with Jordi Soteres, one of the outstanding leaders of the faculty, does not lead to the commitment she would like. The sociopolitical fight does not satisfy her either, because in the end it defends theories that do not stir her, and she realizes that she and her companions will not be able to change the world. For these reasons, she ends up abandoning everything in her recognition of a painful, yet more honest, reality.
Her mother, Mundeta Ventura, is an ingénue, oblivious to everything (the day the Republic is proclaimed, for example, she can only think of the hot chocolate and cookies she will be missing). Timid and bashful, she falls in love with a sensitive and strange man, and has sexual relations with him just before he commits suicide, unable to bear his experiences in the events of October 1934. This is the secret that the woman subjects to the tyranny of Joan Claret, the speculator husband who completely invalidates her—with one exception: the moments she remembers the war and the day she spent looking for him among the ruins. The fact that this episode frames Roig’s novel underlines the relevance of a unique sensation in this character’s existence, paradigm of a specific instance of the feminine condition: the feeling of being without fear and having the freedom to breathe freely, here and now, in the present moment, without thinking of the past or the future, inhaling the life offered in the midst of death and destruction.
Translated by Robin Vogelzang
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