Collective Memory in Miloudi Chaghmoum’s ‘La quema de los barcos’

By Barbara Schulz.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this presentation I am exploring the question of collective memory in a short story that gives voice to the new North African diaspora in Spain. ‘La quema de los barcos’ by Miloudi Chagmoum forms part of CUENTOS DE LAS DOS ORILLAS, a bilingual (Arabic/Spanish) collection of short stories by Moroccan and Spanish writers. The narrative articulates the topoi of transit and travel, focusing on the journey itself rather than the post-arrival and acculturation period. The narrative employs narrative strategies which are strongly mimetic, translating the experience of migration into an complex narrative texture. In my analysis I focus on the question of collective memory. I investigate how the text reflects and reworks the ruptures in personal and collective history in the encounter between the Maghreb (Western North Africa) and Spain. In terms of its narrative structure, “La quema de los barcos” can be viewed as a ‘performance’ of collective memory, whose operations it mimics through its formal strategies. It identifies collective memory as a kind of collage which integrates memories from specific scenes, voices and impressions from the past, pasting them into the experience of the present moment. It molds one hi-story out of several discrete stories, shreds and fragments of stories. To establish temporal order, it establishes a segmentation or periodization of time: in Muslim history, time is divided by different instances of migration. It integrates the individual and the collective by stitching the story of the self together with the stories of others. Finally, collective memory reworks history in the sense of a Freudian ‘Verarbeitung’ or ‘Trauerarbeit.’ It serves to re-live and work through the pain accumulated by the collective, thereby accomplishing emotional resolution.

Keywords: Diasporic Literature, Collective Memory, The Arab Muslim World and the West, Narrative Strategies, Migration, Prose Fiction, Short Story

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 8, pp.19-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 532.481KB).

Dr. Barbara Schulz

Assistant Professor, Division of Social Sciences and Modern Languages, Eastern Oregon University (EOU), La Grande, OR, USA

Grew up in Germany. Studied at University of Heidelberg (Applied Linguistics/Translation). To U.S. (Oregon) in 1988 for Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature. Ph.D.1907. Work in international education in Mexico 1992, Ecuador (1992-1994), Germany (1994-1996). Teaching in Oregon since 2000. Research: urban transformation and identity in Latin American Literature. New research area: the encounter between the Maghreb and Spain in Music and Literature.

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