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  • Las huellas de la Guerra Civil: Mito y trauma en la narrativa de la España democrática
  • Elizabeth Scarlett
Carmen Moreno-Nuño. Las huellas de la Guerra Civil: Mito y trauma en la narrativa de la España democrática. Madrid: Edciones Libertarias, 2006. 429 pp.

Few topics could be timelier, with current controversy seething over the Law of Historical Memory and other issues concerning the undoing of the Pact of Silence, than this well-reasoned, knowledgeable, and extremely perceptive new approach to the fiction of the eighties and nineties in Spain. The author has taken a dissertation that focused on five narrative works by essential writers of the post-Franco years and turned it into an indispensable volume that includes a wealth of references to other relevant texts, films, political developments, and psychological trauma theory. Building upon seminal studies in this vein by Vilarós, Labanyi, and Moreiras Menor, Moreno-Nuño traces an original unifying thread by examining representations of the Civil War and the authoritarian régime of Francisco Franco as they gravitate towards both the mythical and the traumatic.

The authors selected are children of parents who lived through the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39 and the works were published during the first Socialist government of the democracy (1982–1996). Two extraordinarily detailed introductions establish the duality of the Civil War’s legacy and that of the most repressive years of Francoism as one fluctuating between the historical oblivion that favors mythification, and a contrary impulse of remembering that dwells upon trauma, or direct experience that has left an unhealed wound. Chapter 1 gives a contextualization of public debate surrounding how the democracy should deal with the past, resulting first in the Law of Amnesty of 1977 and later in the PSOE Pact of Silence that protected Nationalist offenders of human rights from prosecution and virtually ensured a silence concerning sensitive issues such as political cleansing, mass executions, and treatment of political prisoners during and after the Civil War. The literary and cinematic domains would wind up taking up these themes, with a progression from more mythical renderings to more traumatic ones. Chapter 2 introduces the critical [End Page 431] foundations of myth/archetypal analysis and psychological trauma studies and their implications for the study of a culture that has undergone a transition from fascist/totalitarian through authoritarian and finally democratic political structures in a relatively short time.

Javier Marías’s third novel El siglo (1983) forms the focus of the next chapter, although his more widely-read later novels are discussed briefly for some of their connections to the topic. Marías tends to structure his novels around the repetition of certain motifs or enunciations that only acquire their full meaning when they are uttered again in new contexts, often reaching out rhyzomatically to other discourses. Moreno-Nuño shows how the Civil War functions as just such a leitmotif in this portrait of a fascist informant. With Sternhell and The Authoritarian Personality as guides, she establishes a concordance between fascist cognitive styles and those of this narrative: time as destiny, father-worship, rejection of the weak and fascination with the forces of evil and destruction. The eternal return to the cause of real trauma in Marías’s family (his father served a prison term due to the false accusations of an informer from among his friends) is saved from melodrama by ironic and farcical elements sprinkled throughout. She makes a convincing case that this novel is an attempt at closure on a personal and literary level for a national problem that would not be addressed by historiography of the Democratic Transition and early years of Socialism.

Chapter 4 explores Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s El pianista (1985) as the creation of a Republican hero, an enterprise common to much fiction of the late sixties through the eighties as loosening censorship allowed for reclaiming of the Loyalist tradition. Albert Rosell is transformed from the stuff of myth or legend into a paradigm of trauma, in tandem with the Communist Party losing its moral authority as a watchdog over Francoism and betraying him. The novelist’s chronic skepticism...


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pp. 431-433
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