Spain’s Mediacrest, one of its fastest-rising independent TV production-distribution houses, has attached Spanish novelist Elvira Lindo to adapt Spanish novel “Nada,” one of the greatest modern classics written after Spain’s Civil War.
Lindo is joining Daniel Domenjó, Mediacrest managing director, and Alberto Macías, the company’s head of fiction, to present the drama series makeover at a Conecta Fiction panel this Wednesday, entitled Nada, the Challenge of Adapting a Literary Icon.
The title of the round table pretty well sums up the adaptation’s largest challenge. “Nada” won Spain’s Nadal Prize, one of its biggest literary awards, in 1944 when Laforet was just 23. The novel turns on Andrea, a Laforet alter-ego, who arrives at her grandmother’s house in 1939 in Barcelona to study at the university, soon after the end of the Spanish Civil War which the city lost to dictator Francisco Franco.
Though her family supported the Civil War’s victors, Andrea discovers a house of horrors, of “fustiness, sacristy and Francoism,” as Mario Vargas Llosa puts it. That runs from domestic violence – one of her uncles beats his wife who sleeps with her brother – to constant verbal abuse, hypocrisy and hunger.
The house, for those who sought a political message, could stand proxy for the physical and moral squalor of the society Franco had created whose violence was beginning to turn inward on itself .
Yet Andrea herself claims that when she left, “I had learnt nothing . . . I took nothing with me. At least, that’s what I thought then.”
What is extraordinary about “Nada” is how it brought a sense of existentialism, of modernity, to a Spanish literature lost in the 1940 in bombast and plodding realism.
The tale was told, moreover, in a terse, tensed, tight style of laconic, aseptic sentences which will be difficult to capture in a series without resorting to the liberal use of voiceover.
In narrative prose, arguably nothing as good as “Nada” was to hit Spain until Juan Benet’s “Volverás a Régión” in 1969.
“The biggest challenge of adapting ‘Nada’ is that it is a great novel, written by a 23-year-old woman in a very first person, a very personal but universal story,” Macías said.
“Rendering a literary tale in images is one of the most difficult of things,” Lindo observed.
“What we don’t want is a look-back to a sepia past of the 1940s. Fidelity to ‘Nada’ means making something contemporary with a novel which still touches the hearts of readers,” she added.
Lindo broke out with her first novel, 1994’s “Manolito Gafotas,” based on a character she developed as a comedic monolog for a radio program. It exemplified the mix of popular entertainment and social critique which runs through much of the best of modern Spanish movies and TV shows.
A movie version of “Manolito Gafotas” co-written with director Miguel Albaladejo saw Lindo score a Spanish Academy Goya Award nomination for best adapted screenplay.