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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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Chapter 4 The Memory of Politics and the Politics of Memory: Autobiografía de Federico Sánchez an


d Netchaïev est de retour After a thorough examination of the interplay between memory and writ- ing in the context of the Holocaust, this chapter extends this focus to the writing of Semprún’s political memories. As we have seen thus far, the memory of events and their representation undergo changes whenever the author’s understanding of the self is altered. This rift between the former vision and the updated version of memories is underlined in Dimanche by the use of dif ferent narrative voices. In this chapter it will be shown how some of these observations can be brought to bear on Semprún’s depiction of his political activism. At the heart lies a discussion of two very dif ferent books: Autobiografía de Federico Sánchez (1977) and Netchaïev est de retour (1987). Despite their apparent generic dif ferences, the former having often been read as a political autobiography and the latter a thriller, both texts are organized around a strong political motive. At first glance, this political interest may appear to be opposed to the writing of memory as discussed thus far. Yet as the title of this chapter indicates, the examination of these texts will focus on the memory of politics and not on the political events themselves. While it would certainly be worthwhile to unearth and com- pare all the dif ferent documents relating the divergence and subsequent expulsion of Semprún from the PCE, this historical angle lies beyond the scope of this...

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