Resistance and remembrance : 21st century Spain reengaging 20th century trauma



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This dissertation centers on the realization that history evolves and is never complete because the past is elusive and perceptions sway as society changes. Throughout the turn to the twenty-first century, Spain has been moving from resistance to remembrance with regard to individual, cultural and governmental interest in the Civil War and dictatorship of the twentieth century. During the transition to democracy after General Francisco Franco’s death on November 20th, 1975, the reunified government opted to forget the divisive past with the unofficial Pacto de Olvido. Despite this impulse toward resistance, the urge for remembrance at a personal and social level evolved into a, nationwide debate. On December 26th, 2007, the incumbent Congress of Deputies enacted La Ley de Memoria Histórica, a law that mandates attention to previously denied history. In essence, this controversial ruling seeks to promote remembrance of both sides of the Civil War. Contemporary literature, media and film have long been involved in this deeply political and personal work. From the multitude of options, this project selected five renowned texts published between 1992 and 2005. The authors of Autobiografía del General Franco (1992), La voz dormida (2002), El lápiz del carpintero (1998), Enterrar a los muertos (2005), and Soldados de Salamina (2001) belong to what Marienne Hirsch defines as the postmemory generation, the one born following a national trauma. These writers do not have the privileged position of immediate contact with survivors, yet emotional and temporal distance from the events narrated empowers these Spanish authors to create nuanced, literary depictions of war and post-war experiences. In their texts, these writers challenge accepted history, poetically weave a collective memory based on testimonies, illuminate idealistic differences, counter-balance hope with horror, and narrate the transformative experience of historical research. By engaging with the past from the perspective of the present, their narrators articulate the tension between resistance and remembrance. The texts studied here offer five contrastive representations of ways in which versions of history are alternately censured or suppressed, and subsequently unearthed and refashioned in collective and official memory as political power and narrative agency are transformed in an ever-changing society.