Existential Enlightenment Within the Context of Post-civil War Spain in Carmen Laforet's Nada

Open Access
Christiansen, Lauren Marie
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Nicolas L Fernandez Medina, Thesis Supervisor
  • Paola Eulalia Dussias, Honors Advisor
  • Christopher Carl Oechler, Faculty Reader
  • existentialism
  • Spanish existentialism
  • existentialist
  • Carmen Laforet
  • Laforet
  • Nada
  • Nothing
  • Spanish novel
  • Postwar Spain
The following thesis examines postwar Spanish existentialism within the context of Carmen Laforet’s novel Nada (1945), which depicts the life of teenage Andrea, who has returned to Barcelona during the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Postwar Spain refers to the fascist political and social movement led by Francisco Franco from 1939 to 1975, remembered for the fear, repression, control, and poverty it imposed on the Spanish people. Existential themes found in Nada demonstrate Andrea’s journey to enlightenment through a series of learning moments, best illuminated by Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist viewpoint, maintaining that nothingness must be crossed to arrive at enlightenment of existence. My argument is organized as follows: Chapter one introduces the Spanish Civil War, describes existentialism, and discusses popular misperceptions of existential thought. Chapter two explores Andrea’s learning moments through Sartrean existential themes of starvation, abandonment, anguish, death, and enlightenment. Chapter three exhibits Andrea’s journey to existential enlightenment as one mirroring her physical movement, or spatiality. Hardly have literary critics written about Nada as fully existentialist; to my knowledge, Laforet’s novel has loosely earned the categorization without an in-depth analysis. In what follows, I show that Andrea, Nada’s protagonist, reaches existential enlightenment in the context of postwar Spain through a series of learning moments characterized by Sartrean themes that mirror her physical journeying throughout Barcelona.