| MADRID, June 25
MADRID, June 25 Prize-winning novelist Ana Maria
Matute, who spent a literary lifetime exploring the crushed
innocence of her childhood during the Spanish Civil War, died on
Wednesday of a heart attack, her son told Reuters.
She was 88 years old and lived in Barcelona.
Her novels spanning the 1940s to the 1960s depicted the
devastation of rural, war-torn Spain from a child's perspective.
In her 1959 novel "School of the Sun", a girl named Maria
comes of age while the war divides her family and her town on
the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, with a doll named Gorogo
her sole confidant.
Maria's gradual abandonment of the doll and of fairy tales,
and her friendship with a boy who is ostracised in the village,
mark her transition to adulthood.
Decades later, when Matute won Spain's highest literary
award, the Cervantes - she was the third woman to receive the
honour - she spoke of her own Gorogo, a doll her father brought
her from London when she was five, who became her only friend.
"I take it on all my trips and I still tell it what I can't
tell anybody," she said in her acceptance speech in 2010.
Matute and other writers scarred by the 1936-1939 war - Juan
Goytisolo, Ignacio Aldecoa, Carmen Martin Gaite and Carmen
Laforet - were dubbed the generation of the frightened children.
"You know how horrible it is to be 11, and go from being a
little middle-class girl ... to finding yourself in a world
divided, even brothers were divided ... Going through a war with
atrocities, discovering the ugliest things in life," she said.
Born in Barcelona, northeast Spain, on July 26, 1925, Matute
was one of five children. Her father owned an umbrella factory.
She almost died of a kidney infection when she was five
years old. Aged 8, she was sent to live with her grandparents in
a small town, Mansilla de la Sierra. Later, she attended a
religious school in Madrid.
She was surprised in adulthood to find that her mother, who
did not encourage her writing and with whom she had a cold
relationship, had saved a box filled with her early stories.
Matute described herself as a baby-faced 19-year-old in knee
socks when she took her first novel "Little Theatre" to a
Childhood, isolation and paradise lost are her three big
themes, playwright and literary critic Pedro M. Villora said.
"Her favourite age, from the point of view of the creator,
is adolescence, youth, the moment in which some children are no
longer children," he said.
Suffering from depression, Matute did not write for most of
the 1970s and 1980s, and when she started again she produced a
trilogy of medieval fantasies - legends of fairies and demons
and a child who becomes a knight.
She said she related best to 11-year-old girls and in her
books she strives to recover the childhood dreams that shaped
her character. Her last published novel, "Inhabited Paradise",
dealt with a child unable to understand the selfish adult world.
During the Franco dictatorship, which ended in 1974, much of
her work was censored and she was blacklisted from writing in
newspapers and magazines.
"They called me irreverent, immoral, they twisted
everything," she said in 2011 at the inauguration of an
exhibition that showed how official censors changed her work.
She won almost every Spanish literary award: the Nadal,
Planeta, National Literature award and others.
Matute's first marriage, to writer Ramon Eugenio de
Goicoechea, also a writer, ended after 11 years.
At the time the couple separated, divorce was still illegal
in Spain and Goicoechea got custody of their son. Matute left
for the United States where she worked as a visiting professor
in several universities.
She was married to her second husband, French businessman
Julio Brocard, for 28 years before he died in 1990.
(Additional reporting by Blanca Rodriguez; Edited by Sonya
Hepinstall and Louise Ireland)