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It also explores the ethical consequences of using a postmemorial framework for perpetrators. Though Juan intuitively suspects a series of nefarious facts about him, he is reluctant to actually hear the details because he knows this knowledge will change the present. It is thus an intensely personal and familial story, but one that reverberates off the memories and ideological obsessions of a nation.
It also explores the ethics of using a postmemorial framework for perpetrators. German, taken aback, asks for forgiveness, but later denies everything.
He loves his father deeply, but cannot understand him. As a Civil War scholar, he sees a need for acknowledgement of the atrocities committed during the war and its aftermath. He has dedicated his professional life to this end. The novel argues that it is impossible to arrive at an absolute narrative of the past. The term has since been widely adopted, expanded, and reworked by a number of scholars to treat other national, racial, and cultural realities.
That is not, of course, to say that survivor memory itself is unmediated, but that it is more directly— chronologically—connected to the past. The trauma in this novel, however, is of a very different nature because it is not one of suffering, but rather of guilt and responsibility. The framework of postmemory, originally created to analyze the legacy of the Holocaust, can easily be adopted to treat the Spanish Civil War.
In the beginning of the twenty-first century, the need to recover the past became an important mandate for many people, most especially for the new generation who had not lived the war or much of the dictatorship, but was curious about the past of its grandparents, and aware that the surviving population of the war was rapidly disappearing. Similarly, the past has gained a strong presence in the postmodern narrative.
This postmodern return to the past, however, is not a nostalgic one, however, but rather a critical revisiting Hutcheon 4 : it is the problematization of history.
Additionally, the fact that the population who actually lived the war diminishes every day has produced an urgency to recuperate and document particular stories before it is too late. The twenty-first century has seen an explosion of art exhibits, novels, and films that re-imagine and reconsider the Spanish Civil War with a new perspective.
Most cultural products of the Spanish Civil War today including novels seek to honor and recognize the sufferings of the Republican victims, who were oppressed, forgotten, silenced, and alienated for so long. Many authors see their work as breaking a silence. In , the Spanish Congress presented a declaration that officially condemned coup, but the conservative Partido Popular PP refused to support a proposal presented in to formally honor the victims of the regime in Parliament. The postmemory of the Francoist perpetrators of violence also represents a much more convoluted ethical problem; Firstly, by shifting the gaze away from the Republican victim to the perpetrator, it risks leaving the victim once again in the shadows.
The genuine tension packed in the eye-to-eye confrontation between the fascista idealogue and the anonymous militiaman unravels in a narrative that spotlights the former while leaving the latter in the shadow. All three novels use an anonymous historic photograph displayed on the cover as the inspiration for a fictional story, and also refer to the photograph explicitly in the text.
Very soon, the reader learns that this has changed radically with time and experience, but the protagonist constantly refers to the photograph because it represents the central problem of the novel. What does one do when compromising knowledge threatens an ideal and a relationship? There often is a family connection involved.
He constantly refers to this childhood photograph, however, because it represents his deepest desire for some kind of heroic truth or ideal in the past. The T. He desires to reinvent himself through reading, discovering, and later writing about the life of another. He wants this other life Jacinto Solana, the Republican poet he is writing about to be heroic and desirable. Everyone has a voice in this polyphonic work, and the novel switches narrators with every chapter.
Labanyi criticizes the trend in the last fifteen years toward documentary and realist modes in Spanish Civil War representation, which has coincided with the memory boom. The novel presents the narrativization of the past as almost impossible.
Parallely, any kind of justice or judgment of the past is problematic. Your father is in his 80s, how can he be brought to trial for something that happened 70 years ago.
Though he recognizes the need to recognize past crimes, and he empathizes with the victims, he also strongly 9 Labanyi writes of Soldados de Salamina: Although both novel and film focus on the present-day investigation of the past, they represent the difficulties of reconstructing the past as purely practical a matter of tracking down the evidence rather than inherent in the narrativation of a difficult past.
At times, some characters in the novel speculate that the revolutionary side would have committed the same scale of atrocities as the Nationalists, had they won the war. This argument, an unpopular perspective or at least counter cultural in many leftist Spanish circles today, is consistent with his other works. The protagonist never reaches a more intimate understanding of his dad, however, now an elderly man who spends most of his days painting miniature lead soldiers and playing a solitary card game he used to play during the war.
German has no nostalgic past to search: he lives haunted by the past as his older brother was murdered by the revolutionaries at 17 years of age, and many of his friends were killed in battle.
The novel also suggests that German is far more implicated in war crimes than the novel reveals. The novel illuminates how, in historical memory narratives, despite the protests of historians, philosophers and academics, pathetic arguments often conquer.
The desencanto of the present, however, ultimately reflects and mirrors a horrifying and disenchanted past. The novel ends with a kind of pathetic ambiguity, illuminating the inherent problems with memory and justice. Breaking the silence does not always heal wounds as some are quick to believe, and justice is complex and often unsatisfying. No one, perpetrator or victim, finds any peace and reconciliation after their quest for truth. The novel ultimately promotes a different kind of empathy for the other side, who cannot find meaning, ideals, or heroes in history.
This kind of metafictional autoreference is nothing new, and is seen in other Spanish Civil War novels like Soldados Salamina, where the fictional protagonist also becomes the author of the novel he is in. Though a vague ethical mandate remains to make the horrors and crimes of the past known, the novel makes no promises of peace or resolution as a result. While the protagonist of the novel is the heroic Republican doctor Da Barca, the narrator of the novel is the miserable Falangist prison guard, Herbal.
Herbal is not a demon, but struggles between the forces of good and evil. We see this line of thinking in the last century in many Spanish Civil War novels by both Francoist and Republican writers.
Despite his refusal to confess, the past still haunts German, and it is precisely his faults, fears, silences, and crimes that make him a human being. Evil is as much a human attribute as good, and the trauma of crime and guilt of the perpetrators is passed on to the next generation, though in a more subtle way.
Shifting the empathetic gaze from the victim to the perpetrator in a Spanish Civil War memory novel, however, holds serious ethical and philosophical consequences. The novel, however, does provide a fresh voice and perspective that counters the current hegemonic one.
This article makes a case for more perpetrator postmemory as an ethical and important way to face both the past and our own humanity. Madrid: Taurus, Bertrand, de M. Cercas, Javier.
Soldados de Salamina. Barcelona: Tusquets, La voz dormida. Madrid: Alfaguara, Fonseca, Carlos. Tiempo de memoria.
Madrid: Temas de hoy, Madrid Frankfurt: Iberoamericana- -Vervuert, Hirsch, Marianne. Hutcheon, Linda. New York: Routledge, Labanyi, Jo. Madrid: Ed. Alfaguara, Muguerza, Javier. Morris, Leslie. Leslie Morris and Jack Zipes. Palgrave, MLA International Bibliography. Beatus Ille. Barcelona: Seix Barral, Portela, M. Preston, Paul. New York: W. Susan Larson and Eva Woods.
Visualizing Spanish Modernity Oxford: Berg, Rivas, Manuel. Madrid: Suma de letras, Rodriguez Marcos, Javier.
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