María Lejárraga, the author who renounced her own name




«The nameless woman who nevertheless had too many. The greatest mystery in Spanish literature ». With these words he refers Vanessa Montfort a Maria Lejárraga in his novel entitled, precisely, «The woman with no name»(Plaza & Janés). In it, the Barcelona novelist investigates a character that fascinated her when she wrote, three years ago, the play «Signed Lejárraga». «I left many things in the inkwell; to write the show I immersed myself so much in her life, in her surroundings, that there was still much to say about her ». The novel does not completely abandon the world of theater, since it recounts the journey through the life of María Lejárraga made by a theater director, Noelia Cid, when she is commissioned to mount “Sortilegio”, a lost work by Gregorio Martinez Sierra.

Under the shadow, precisely, of this author, whom he married in 1900, was a good part of his life María de la O Lejárraga García, writer and feminist born in 1874 in the Riojan town of San Millán de la Cogolla. Today there is no doubt that she was actually the author of many of the books that her husband signed. “There are people, even academics, who continue to defend that they were co-authors. Those who question it do so because they do not understand the concept of authorship; To give ideas is not to be an author, but I also don’t think that Martínez Sierra gave any ».

In the case of “The Woman Without a Name”, it can almost be spoken of as a “documentary novel.” Vanessa Montfort confesses that the research work for a book attracts her as much or more as the writing itself. “I love; There are even cases, like the one in this novel, in which I overdo it ». Why have you used this genre, then? «It is a discipline – justifies the author – where I have been able to move with greater freedom; within fiction many realities are told. And it has also allowed me, on the other hand, to express myself subjectively, to tell in my own way a question as delusional as renouncing authorship. María Lejárraga takes me in this novel to a series of totemic names that in this way I can “humanize” and show through her personal dramas: Falla, Stravinski, Lorca, Clara Campoamor, La Pasionaria … A novel allows me to investigate its world, and travel the 20th century through the eyes of its great creators.

María Lejárraga separated from Martínez Sierra in the early 1920s because of the relationship he had with the actress Catalina Barcena. Despite this, she kept her husband’s surname in the signature of her works: Maria Martinez Sierra. “I understand that she did not, although today it is difficult for us to understand her,” explains Vanessa Montfort. He had spent too many years on the “brand” and was aware that if he signed his real name it would be much more difficult to publish. Keep in mind that she was already 65 years old when she went into exile in America (she died in Buenos Aires on June 28, 1974, at the age of 99). María Martínez Sierra was, in fact, her pseudonym, and she continued to use it even after Gregorio’s death in 1947. She knew that her works could go further ».

Since 1930, the novelist adds, “Maria also had a private document in which Gregorio acknowledged the co-authorship of María, but he continued to claim the rights to the works for himself. But by not mentioning her later in his will and having an heiress (Catalinita) it is difficult for them to agree. There are letters in which María complains that Catalinita does not respect the agreement that María reached with Gregorio ».

Tomb in La Chacarita

There is something that reveals «The woman without a name»: the find in the Chacarita Cemetery from the grave of this “elusive character.” The researcher Alda Blanco discovered it just two years ago; investigators assumed she was buried there, but had not found her. With this discovery the novel begins.

“María Lejárraga is not another invisible woman,” concludes Vanessa Montfort-; it is a symbol. It is the most important mystery in Spanish literature. That is why it seems important to me to make known the name of an author who should be studied as a reference ».

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