Carmen Martín Gaite (1925-2001) lived the Spanish Civil War. In 1936, when the War broke out, she was 11 years old and residing with her parents in Salamanca, where Francisco Franco had established his military headquarters. She saw Franco in the triumphal parades and other public ceremonies. An uncle was shot by Nationalists during the Civil War for belonging to the Socialist Party, and her father’s car was requisitioned by the Nationalist war effort, but in some ways Martín Gaite’s relationship to the war was more literary than real.1 El cuarto de atrás [The Back Room], her landmark novel of 1978, which helped launch the recovery of historical memory literary movement in 1978, is her major literary contribution to representing the War and the Franco era.2 What I want to trace here is the lead-up to El cuarto de atrás in the 1960s and Martín Gaite’s theory of ruins as a bridge between her historical and literary representations of the War. Between October 1963 and February1969 Martín Gaite suspended her budding career as a novelist to devote herself to research and writing on historical subjects, notably a doctoral dissertation on eighteenth-century Spanish courtship customs-Love Customs in Eighteenth-Century Spain-and El proceso de Macanaz: Historia de un empapelamiento [Macanaz’s trial: The history of a criminal case],3 a biography of nance minister to Felipe V, Melchor Rafael de Macanaz (1670-1760), who ran afoul of the Inquisition over his avid and copiously documented support of the Church’s subordination to the monarchy. In this essay, I focus on what it was in Macanaz’s story that attracted Martín Gaite to set her literary career aside for ve and a half years to research and write Macanaz’s biography and what that experience contributed to her later novelistic trajectory.4 My answer takes two tracks-1) the parallel between Macanaz’s times and those of Martín Gaite, including the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Franco dictatorship (1939-1975) and 2) Martín Gaite’s fascination with Macanaz’s drive to write. These two threads are intertwined thanks to the concept of ruins, which can be either historical (often caused by the Civil War) or personal (biographical) ruins, and they reappear in Ritmo lento and Retahílas, the novels that preceded and followed the biography. Like María Zambrano, who wrote two essays on ruins, Martín Gaite does not view ruins as a completely negative phenomenon; ruins for both authors can be the initiation of something new and positive.5