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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 5 Memory and Identity in La Deuxième Mort de Ramón Mercader and La Montagne blanche


In the previous chapter, while investigating the relationship between poli- tics and memory, it became clear that collective and individual memory depend on each other and shape each other in Semprún’s understanding of the terms. At the same time, the divergences found in dif ferent personal memories, that is, for example, the dif ferent interpretations of the past provided by Semprún and Carrillo, also pointed to the problem arising from the understanding of the self which is in turn heavily inf luenced by specific personal recollections. In Autobiografía Semprún’s internal strug- gle has been externalized by means of the doubling of the self into two dif ferent personal pronouns, referring to either the self at the moment of writing, by using the ‘yo’, or by referring to Federico Sánchez, the other self, employing ‘tú’. This chapter explores the interplay between identity and memory in more detail and some of the literary devices employed by Semprún in order to represent this issue. An analysis of La Deuxième Mort de Ramón Mercader (1969) and La Montagne blanche (1986) will show how and for what purpose these literary devices are used. Although this chapter deals with identity, the notion of the self will be discussed in the way that it constitutes an emplotment within the two books. Therefore, I am not necessarily concerned with the idea of autobio- graphical writing. Indeed, the two texts to be examined are perhaps two of the least autobiographical...

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