Blanca García Gómez (UCL) - 2019-20 Students

The British Exile: Memory and Trauma in the Works of Spanish Writers Exiled in Great Britain after the Spanish Civil War

Due to their low numbers, their relatively comfortable situation in exile and the fact that barely any refugees returned home, the Spanish exile in Britain remains understudied to date. Moreover, censorship in Spain, the difficulties of publishing abroad and the consequences of the so-called “Pact of forgetting” agreed after the end of Francoism, among other reasons, have denied exile literature the opportunity of becoming part of the literary canon. Yet Britain attracted Spanish intellectuals whose perspectives provide valuable insights into a period that still hugely affects Spanish identity. Their position in exile – feeling welcomed in Britain and being geographically close to Spain –, allowed them to follow the situation in their country and to continue fighting to improve it. Despite this, it is important to acknowledge that exile is always a traumatic experience. The culture shock coupled with a linguistic displacement as well as the devastation of Spain during this period, generated a profound sense of alienation to which their exilic writings bear unique testimony. My project explores the relevance of memory, trauma, history, and exile in the testimonial writings of Spanish authors exiled in Great Britain. Using theories of exile and theories of memory as a framework, my PhD seeks to understand how the unique conditions of the British literary exile led to a creative process that provides a different understanding of the conflicts that occurred in Spain last century as well as a more dialectic approach to exile, deconstructing common fixed dichotomies and ideas. Furthermore, besides challenging the canon and displaying new perspectives about historical events which are crucial for the Spanish collective identity, Spanish exiles’ literary works are relevant in the context of transnational studies as hybrid creations which belong to two cultures. Therefore, exile literature stands in an undefined space between politics, history and literature, which can facilitate the understanding of the complexities of a people’s history.

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