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  • Giving Voice to Silenced OthersThe Year in Spain
  • Ana Belén Martínez García (bio)

A notable trend this year in Spanish life writing has been to give voice to those silenced. Following in the footsteps of a long-standing tradition of testimonial life writing worldwide, multiple lifewriting works in Spain have been turning to issues of "voice" and "silence." It is little surprise that some of these stories feature women after the global impact of the #MeToo movement. However, the trends I identified in my contribution to this feature last year (Martínez García) have persisted. Conflict continues to permeate life narratives in Spain, and as will be seen in what follows, both politics and journalism are among the most prevalent fields of study from which life writing comes.

Voicing the Stories of Silenced Crimes

One of the key pieces of Spanish life writing this year has been the documentary El silencio de otros, directed by Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar. El silencio de otros, produced by acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, sheds light on the recent past in Spain, the stories of crimes committed under Francisco Franco's dictatorship that remain unsolved to date. The documentary retraces those traumatic memories by interviewing some of the survivors and witnesses seeking justice, some of whom have since died. It gives voice to their suffering and to that of others who preferred to stay unidentified. With a brilliant use of close-ups for empathic engagement (Plantinga 239) and an emotive score, the storytelling process takes viewers through a grueling six-year process of reconstruction, a journey through the concept of "historical memory."1 This term is commonly heard in the Spanish news, as it is contrasted with the Law of Amnesty, which was passed in Parliament in the late 1970s2 and is called "historical amnesia" in the film. It is no wonder that this documentary has won several prizes: the Grand Jury Award at the 2018 Sheffield Doc/Fest, the Audience Award and Peace Film Prize at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, and the Best Documentary Feature at the 33rd Goya [End Page 158] (the Spanish Film Academy) Awards. It was also shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2019.

El silencio de otros must be viewed in conjunction with the latest work published by Baltasar Garzón. If 2018 saw the publication of Garzón's La indignación activa,3 2019 sees his No a la impunidad: Jurisdicción Universal, la última esperanza de las víctimas, where he explores various dictatorships across the world he has helped to fight by raising legal claims. As the subtitle reads, Garzón is addressing the need for "universal jurisdiction" as "the last hope for victims." In chapter ten of this volume, Garzón explores the notion of "historical memory" in Spain and the "shadow" cast by "Francoism." Like El silencio de otros, Garzón delves into the so-called "querella argentina" [Argentinian lawsuit], whereby victims and witnesses to atrocities during Franco's regime presented a legal case in Argentina seeking reparation for crimes against humanity under the protection of international jurisdiction.

The Law of Amnesty of 1977, also known as "pacto del olvido" [pact of forgetting] (Davis), is at the center of the debate in both the film and Garzón's book. At the time, it was deemed a necessary step toward democracy, tacitly acknowledging wrongs on all sides of the Spanish Civil War and the necessity not to speak of those evils any further if peace was going to prosper. Now that decades have elapsed, should those crimes remain forgotten—unspoken—in favor of national reconciliation, or should the law be revised—or overturned—so that the criminals who committed them may be tried and their victims receive reparation? A recent biography revolves around this idea. In 2019, the 31st Comillas Prize for History, Biography and Memoirs went to Javier Padilla's A finales de enero: La historia de amor más trágica de la Transición. Though the title of this massive volume might suggest a love story, that is far from the truth. This biography offers a vivid...


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