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Two Women: A Novel (Hardcover)
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In 1842, a young Cuban woman living in Spain published a novel that was so passionate and boldly feminist in content, it did not appear in her homeland until more than seventy years later. Two Women tells the riveting tale of a tumultuous love triangle among three wealthy Spaniards: a brilliant, young, widowed countess named Catalina, her inexperienced lover Carlos, and his pure and virtuous wife Luisa. The two women start out as rivals, yet in an insightful twist, they ultimately find they are both victims of a patriarchal society that ruthlessly pits women against each other. As the story builds to its thrilling climax, they confront the stark truth that in nineteenth-century Spain, women have few paths to a happy ending.
This first English translation of the novel captures the lyrical romanticism of its prose and includes a scholarly introduction to the work and its author, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, a pioneering feminist and anti-slavery activist who based the character of Catalina on her own experience. Two Women is a searing indictment of the stern laws and customs governing marriage in the Hispanic world, brought to life in a spellbinding, tragic love story.
About the Author
GERTRUDIS GÓMEZ DE AVELLANEDA (1814-1873) is an acclaimed Romantic author who was born and raised in Cuba and spent most of her adult life in Spain. A highly successful playwright, novelist, and poet during her lifetime, through her works she waged an ardent campaign to promote social and economic equality for women.
BARBARA F. ICHIISHI is the author of The Apple of Earthly Love: Female Development in Esther Tusquets’ Fiction, and the translator of many of Tusquets’ major works. She has written articles on Spanish and Latin American women’s literature, and co-translated Edouard Glissant’s historical drama Monsieur Toussaint.
"Once banned as immoral, Two Women reads like a forerunner of the psychological novel, full of eros, thanatos, and other deep impulses both dark and light. It's a love story, a tragedy, and a philosophical thriller that bears the reader along on its verbal and conceptual flights as participant in its many raptures and heartaches, its ethical struggles between desire and obligations. Among its character studies, the Countess is as finely drawn and layered a protagonist as you could want, as memorable as many of the century's great heroines, perhaps, and the highly lyrical discourses throughout are finely-wrought cameos of sexual politics and the tensions born of societal pressures. The translator, Barbara Ichiishi, makes it all come alive."
— Kelly Washbourne
"Remarkably, this pioneering novel – published five years before Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre by the most celebrated woman author in nineteenth-century Spain and Cuba – has never been translated into English before now. Written at the height of Romanticism and set in Seville and Madrid, the novel dares to propose divorce, thus flouting the conventions of a deeply conservative Catholic Spain. Ichiishi’s sensitive translation successfully conveys the pernicious effects of a repressive society on the lives of men and women."
— Catherine Davies
"When it appeared in 1842, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda’s second novel, Dos mujeres, took the Madrid public by storm due to its dramatic portrayal of the quintessential passionate love triangle. The novel intertwines the fates of the angelic Luisa and the talented, worldly Catalina, wife and mistress, in a way that defies gender conventions of the time. With psychological acumen, Gómez de Avellaneda illuminates the strength, subtlety, and supreme altruism of a woman’s soul when the shadow of a rival tests her inner core. Barbara F. Ichiishi’s elegantly crafted translation conveys the poetic range of Gómez de Avellaneda’s prose as well as nuances of narrative voice and dialogue. Gómez de Avellaneda’s Two Women will be hailed as a classic of feminist literature worldwide."
— Adriana Méndez Rodenas