Show Less
Restricted access

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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access



As we have seen, memory truly acts as an overarching theme which runs through all of Semprún’s texts and forms their unifying principle. Memory is intrinsically linked to the author’s representation of the self and, at the same time, the vision of the self shapes the representation of his memories. A reading of the more testimonial works together with those texts that have hitherto largely been classified as novels has proven particularly enriching, since this integrated approach allowed us to trace memories that are particularly recurrent in the Semprunian oeuvre, as well as their variations, while also relating them to a specific context. The generic categorization of Semprún’s texts can be limiting in terms of their literary analysis and should perhaps be suspended wherever it is not absolutely necessary for their study. As the introductory remarks have shown, literature does not pertain to the realm of a truth of correspondence or agreement, but this does not destroy its ethical validity.

Semprún’s petite madeleine is, in a manner of speaking, the experience of Buchenwald. Imprisonment in a concentration camp led him at the beginning to seek a positive affirmation for his existence in his political activism. Having fought for a just cause, against the evils of Nazism, the fight had to continue until all other fascisms disappeared. When political activism is no longer available to him as a means of expression, because he is excluded from the Communist party and thus from the community...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.