Traumatic Legacies of Spain’s Republican Exile

By Sarah Leggott.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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

This article discusses the representation of the experience of exile in two recent novels by Spanish women writers that foreground the continued legacy of the Civil War and of the Republican exile of 1939 in contemporary Spain. The novels that form the basis of my discussion, Josefina Aldecoa’s La fuerza del destino [The Force of Destiny] and Almudena Grandes’s El corazón helado [The Frozen Heart], foreground the need to acknowledge the traumatic effects of exile on Republicans and their descendants as part of current debates about how best to deal with individual and collective memories of Spain’s recent repressive past.
These fictional works both revolve around the life stories of female protagonists, as adults and as children, who are seeking to come to terms with the legacy of their experience, whether personal or inherited, of war and dictatorship. In particular, these novels foreground the far-reaching implications of the Republican exile of 1939 and its impact on different generations of Spaniards, from children to the elderly. El corazón helado presents the perspective of children who are born outside Spain yet are raised as “Spaniards” by their parents and grandparents and explores their complicated positioning with regard to the two different communities, both cultural and linguistic, to which they relate. Both El corazón helado and La fuerza del destino also explore the challenges faced by returning exiles of different generations, ranging from second and third generation exiles who return to a “homeland” that they have never known, to the now elderly Republican exiles who face the challenge of returning to a country that bears little resemblance to the Spain that they had left over thirty five years earlier.

Keywords: Spanish Literature, Women Writers, Exile

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 7, pp.31-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 749.789KB).

Prof. Sarah Leggott

Head of Languages and Cultures, School of Languages and Cultures, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

Sarah Leggott is Associate Professor of Spanish and Head of the School of Languages and Cultures at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her research interests focus on twentieth-century Spanish literature and culture, with a particular interest in women writers and autobiographical narratives. She has published History and Autobiography in Contemporary Spanish Women’s Testimonial Writings (Edwin Mellen Press, 2001) and The Workings of Memory: Life-Writing by Women in Early Twentieth-Century Spain (Bucknell University Press, 2008), as well as journal articles and book chapters on twentieth-century Spanish women writers.

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