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Jorge Semprún

Memory’s Long Voyage


Daniela Omlor

Jorge Semprún is a leading writer from the first generation of Spanish Civil War exiles, yet studies of his work have often focused solely on his literary testimony to the concentration camps and his political activities. Although Semprún’s work derives from his incarceration in Buchenwald and his expulsion from the Spanish Communist Party in 1964, limiting the discussion of his works to the autobiographical details or to the realm of Holocaust studies is reductive. The responses by many influential writers to his recent death highlight that the significance of Semprún’s work goes beyond the testimony of historical events. His self-identification as a Spanish exile has often been neglected and there is no comprehensive study of his works available in English. This book provides a global view of his œuvre and extends literary analysis to texts that have received little critical attention. The author investigates the role played by memory in some of Semprún’s works, drawing on current debates in the field of memory studies. A detailed analysis of these works allows related concepts, such as exile and nostalgia, the Holocaust, the interplay between memory and writing, politics and collective memory, and postmemory and identity, to be examined and discussed.


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Introduction - Memory, Literature and the Self


Introduction – Memory, Literature and the Self Memory, literature and the self are three notions that are intimately inter- twined in the writing of Jorge Semprún. Much of the timeless value of his narratives stems from this fact and yet the mutual dependence of all three makes their discussion dif ficult. Semprún, a prolific writer of novels and film scripts, wrote both in French and Spanish. He was also a politi- cian, first as an active Communist and then as the independent Minister of Culture in the Socialist cabinet of Felipe González from 1988 to 1991. Born in Madrid in 1923, he was the son of José María de Semprún y Gurrea and Susana Maura y Gamazo, the fourth of seven children. His mother was the daughter of Antonio Maura y Montaner, a statesman and several times Prime Minister during the Restoration monarchy of Alfonso XIII at the beginning of the twentieth century, who died in 1925. Miguel Maura Gamazo, the first Minister of the Interior for the Second Republic in 1931, was Semprún’s uncle. His father, a liberal Catholic lawyer, was first made civil governor of Toledo by Maura Gamazo, before he was transferred to Santander. Breaking with his more moderate brother-in-law Semprún Gurrea supported the Popular Front government elected in 1936. The death of his mother in January 1932 represented the first experience of bereavement in Semprún’s life, soon to be followed by the experience of exile. The outbreak of the...

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