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Death and the Maiden: Gender, Nation, and the Imperial Compromise in Blanca de los Rı́os’s Sangre española (1899) kirsty hooper university of liverpool ¡Amigos mı́os, sed testigos en la presencia de Dios de que yo, Guillermo Richemond, barón de Siegberg, he sido un asesino miserable, obstinándome en obtener por fuerza el amor de esa mártir sublime, cuyo cadáver solemnemente restituyo a su patria, para que duerma por toda la eternidad entre los pliegues de esa bandera, como en el regazo de su madre! Yo juré conquistar a esa mujer mientras el Emperador conquistase a su independiente patria. ¡César Napoleón, he ahı́ nuestra victoria! ¡Eso hallaron nuestras armas en Zaragoza y en Gerona! [. . .] ¡Un cadáver heroico envuelto en una bandera invencible! ¡Ay del que intente someter a esa raza de numantinos, a esa indomable sangre española! (187)1 This passage, the closing scene of Blanca de los Rı́os’s turn-of-the-twentiethcentury novel Sangre española, provides a melodramatic—if rather superfluous —key to interpreting a novel that, like the majority of De los Rı́os’s fiction, has received little or no critical attention. It signposts a reading of the novel not only as an (all too rare) female contribution to the contentious debate about Nation and Empire then taking place in fin de siglo Spain, but also as an equally rare Spanish contribution to twenty-first-century conversations about history and Empire in fin de siècle Europe. The words of the Franco-German Guillermo Richemond-Siegberg as he stands beside the coffin of Rocı́o—the wife he ripped from her native Andalusia at the height of the Napoleonic invasion of 1808— spell out the novel’s defining conceit. Our appreciation of the novel turns around our recognition of the parallel between Guillermo’s failed ‘‘conquest’’ of one Spanish woman, and Napoleon’s equally unsuccessful conquest of the Spanish nation, both defeated—as Guillermo says—by the indomitable sangre española of the title. Given De los Rı́os’s well known ‘‘nationalistic agenda’’ (Torrecilla 141), the novel’s triumphalist final assertion of the invincibility of the ‘‘Numantine’’ race was undoubtedly designed to inspire a nation that, nearly a century after the events described in the novel, once again saw its global standing in jeopardy following the loss of its last colonies to the United States in 1898. At the same time, however, Siegberg’s remorseful speech reveals the dissonance in 1 This and all further references are to the 1907 edition of Sangre española. 172  Revista Hispánica Moderna 60.2 (2007) the parallel De los Rı́os wants us to draw between the story of Guillermo’s relationship with his wife, and that of the Spanish victory over the invading forces. The novel’s ending presents a problem for the reader in that Spain’s victory is equated in the novel with the death of the (female) national subject—in this case, Rocı́o, the ‘‘mártir sublime.’’ This apparent paradox is perhaps all the more surprising when we consider it in the context of what we know about Spanish women’s writing at the fin de siglo. Research is beginning to show that from the 1890s, women such as Rosario de Acuña, Eva Canel, Sofı́a Casanova, Emilia Pardo Bazán, and De los Rı́os herself increasingly dealt in their works with matters of national, political, and public interest (e.g., Arkinstall; Davies; Hooper, ‘‘Reading,’’ ‘‘A Spanish Woman’’). Plays such as Acuña’s La voz de la patria (1892), novels such as Pardo Bazán’s Una cristiana (1890) and Casanova’s El doctor Wolski (1894), or socio-political commentaries like Canel’s Álbum de la trocha (1897) and Casanova’s Sobre el Volga helado (1899) may not have been openly subversive, but at the very least questioned the (gendered) assumptions of hegemonic nationalism, and often proposed their own female-centered alternatives. De los Rı́os, it is true, tended to distance herself from the increasing number of female ‘‘transgressions’’ into the public sphere, as in the following exhortation taken from ‘‘Por la República,’’ a...


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pp. 171-185
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