It is fifty years since Goodbye, Ramona landed like a bomb in a Catalonia fighting to break free from the Franco dictatorship, which lasted from 1939 to 1975. It was Montserrat Roig’s first novel, published when she was twenty-five. It is a devastating story of oppression and confinement. Three generations of middle-class Barcelona women of the same family, all called Ramona (or their common nickname, ‘Mundeta’), are trapped in miserable relationships. Roig dissects the dependence on men of all three, which makes them frivolous, frustrated and victims of romantic fantasies derived from novels or films. They are trapped like the butterflies that Francisco, the first Ramona’s husband, collects. This Ramona imagines herself fluttering free, but in reality she is a trophy pinned inside Francisco’s showcase.
In the welcome flood of translations from Catalan to English in recent years, after decades of neglect of a rich literature, the work of Roig (pronounced to rhyme with ‘Notch’) has been a glaring omission. Feminist, socialist and rebel, Roig was a major public figure in her time. In the twenty years before her death from cancer in 1991 aged forty-five, she produced an impressive body of work: five novels, two collections of stories, a book on the siege of Leningrad and several compilations of her many newspaper articles and interviews. Her non-fiction masterpiece is a 900-page book on the several thousand Catalans deported to the Nazi death camps, which required five years of interviews with survivors and archival research. This definitive study challenged a Catalonia being reborn after the dictatorship not to forget its recent history, however harrowing.
Failure of communication is the lot of Goodbye, Ramona’s three women: no one listens to them and they don’t even understand each other. The first Ramona’s diary covers the period 1893–1919; the sections focusing on her daughter tackle the years of the Second Republic, 1931–9; those dealing with her