Journal of Romance Studies

The languages of silence: historical memory, generational transmission and witnessing in contemporary Spain

Journal of Romance Studies (2009), 9, (3), 23–35.

Abstract

This article argues against the idea that the Spanish transition to democracy was characterized by a pacto del olvido [pact of oblivion], insisting that lack of discussion in the public sphere is not the same thing as forgetting. It also argues against the applicability of trauma theory, which has been so important in Holocaust studies, to an understanding of the effects of the Francoist repression (during and after the Spanish CivilWar) on its victims and their relatives, suggesting that their refusal to speak about their suffering, and to pass its memory onto later generations, is best understood in political rather than psychoanalytical terms. The article draws on the work of the Italian cultural historian Luisa Passerini, taking up her invitation to ‘learn to listen to silence’. Through discussion of a number of personal case histories, it challenges the notion that silence necessarily represents a lack of memory or conformism, and examines the ways in which silence can itself represent a form of witnessing and commitment. The discussion is set in the context of the memory debates that have occurred in Spain in recent years, most notably around the passage through parliament in 2006–7 of the Socialist Government’s ‘Memory Law’ (as it became nicknamed in the media), noting the importance for these debates of the discourses about the violent past in postdictatorial Chile and Argentina.

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Caruth, Cathy (1996) Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History Google Scholar

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Feuchtwang, Stephan (2006) ‘Loss: tranmissions, recognitions, authorisations’, in Memory Cultures: Memory, Subjectivity and Recognition, ed. Susannah Radstone and Katharine Hodgkin (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers), 76–89. Loss: tranmissions, recognitions, authorisations Memory Cultures: Memory, Subjectivity and Recognition 76 89 Google Scholar

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Juliá, Santos (ed.) (1999) Víctimas de la guerra civil (Madrid: Temas de Hoy). Víctimas de la guerra civil Google Scholar

Junquera, Natalia (2009) ‘El tiempo se acaba para las víctimas de Franco’, El País (8 June), 40–1. El tiempo se acaba para las víctimas de Franco El País 40 1 Google Scholar

Labanyi, Jo (2008) ‘Entrevista con Emilio Silva’, in The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Spain, ed. Jo Labanyi, special issue of Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 9.2, 143–55. Entrevista con Emilio Silva The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Spain 9.2 143 55 Google Scholar

LaCapra, Dominick (2001) Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press). Writing History, Writing Trauma Google Scholar

Leguineche, Manuel and Jesús Torbado (1999) [1977] Los topos (Madrid: El País/Aguilar; 1st edn Barcelona: Argos). Los topos Google Scholar

Leizaola, Aitzpea (2006) ‘La antropología a pie de fosa: Diálogo con Francisco Etzeberria y Francisco Ferrándiz sobre la memoria de la Guerra Civil’, Ankulegi: Gizarte Antropologia Aldizkaria / Revista de Antropología Social / Revue d’Ethnologie 10, 33–46. La antropología a pie de fosa: Diálogo con Francisco Etzeberria y Francisco Ferrándiz sobre la memoria de la Guerra Civil Ankulegi: Gizarte Antropologia Aldizkaria / Revista de Antropología Social / Revue d’Ethnologie 10 33 46 Google Scholar

Llamazares, Julio (1985) Luna de lobos (Barcelona: Seix Barral). Luna de lobos Google Scholar

Passerini, Luisa (1987) Fascism in Popular Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Fascism in Popular Memory Google Scholar

Passerini, Luisa (1998) ‘Work ideology and consensus under Italian Fascism’, in The Oral History Reader, ed. Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson (London: Routledge), 53–62. Work ideology and consensus under Italian Fascism The Oral History Reader 53 62 Google Scholar

Passerini, Luisa (2006) ‘Memories between silence and oblivion’, in Memory, History, Nation: Contested Pasts, ed. Katharine Hodgkin and Susannah Radstone (New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Publishers), 238–54. Memories between silence and oblivion Memory, History, Nation: Contested Pasts 238 54 Google Scholar

Passerini, Luisa (ed.) (2005) Memory and Totalitarianism (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers); reissue of (1992) Memory and Totalitarianism: International Yearbook of Oral History and Life Stories, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Memory and Totalitarianism Google Scholar

Reverte, Jorge M. and Socorro, Thomás (2001) Hijos de la guerra: testimonios y recuerdos (Madrid: Temas de Hoy). Hijos de la guerra: testimonios y recuerdos Google Scholar

Silva, Emilio and Santiago Macías (2003) Las fosas de Franco: Los republicanos que el dictador dejó en las cunetas (Madrid: Temas de Hoy). Las fosas de Franco: Los republicanos que el dictador dejó en las cunetas Google Scholar

Silva, Emilio, Asunción Esteban, Javier Castán and Pancho Salvador (eds) (2004) La memoria de los ovlidados: un debate sobre el silencio de la represión franquista (proceedings of the Primeras Jornadas Nacionales de la ARMH, Valladolid, 2003) (Valladolid: Ámbito). La memoria de los ovlidados: un debate sobre el silencio de la represión franquista Google Scholar

Smith, Paul Julian (2006) Spanish Visual Culture: Cinema, Television, Internet (Manchester: Manchester University Press). Spanish Visual Culture: Cinema, Television, Internet Google Scholar

Sontag, Susan (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador). Regarding the Pain of Others Google Scholar

Sueiro, Daniel (2006) [1977] El Valle de los Caídos: Los secretos de la cripta franquista (Madrid: La Esfera de los Libros; 1st edn La verdadera historia del Valle de los Caídos (Madrid: Sedmay). El Valle de los Caídos: Los secretos de la cripta franquista Google Scholar

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Valis, Noël (2007) ‘Civil War ghosts entombed: lessons of the Valley of the Fallen,’ Teaching Representations of the Spanish Civil War, ed. Noël Valis (New York: MLA), 425–35. Civil War ghosts entombed: lessons of the Valley of the Fallen, Teaching Representations of the Spanish Civil War 425 35 Google Scholar

Yoldi, José (2008) ‘Garzón atribuye a Franco un plan de exterminio sistemático de los “rojos”’, El País (17 November), 12. Garzón atribuye a Franco un plan de exterminio sistemático de los “rojos” El País 12 Google Scholar

Aguilar, Fernández, Paloma (1996) Memoria y olvido de la Guerra Civil española (Madrid: Alianza). Memoria y olvido de la Guerra Civil española Google Scholar

Aguilar, Fernández, Paloma (2002) Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy, trans. Mark Gordon Oakley (Oxford: Berghahn). Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy Google Scholar

Altozano, Manuel (2008) ‘Garzón lanza la mayor investigación sobre los desaparecidos del régimen de Franco’, El País (2 September), 10. Garzón lanza la mayor investigación sobre los desaparecidos del régimen de Franco El País 10 Google Scholar

Armengou, Montse and Ricard Belis (2004) Las fosas del silencio: ¿Hay un Holocausto español? (book accompanying the documentary film Les fosses del silenci ) (Barcelona: Plaza & Janés). Las fosas del silencio: ¿Hay un Holocausto español? Google Scholar

Augé, Marc (2004) Oblivion, trans. Marjolijn de Jager (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). Oblivion Google Scholar

Avelar, Idelber (1999) The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning (Durham NC: Duke University Press). The Untimely Present: Postdictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning Google Scholar

Caruth, Cathy (1996) Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History Google Scholar

C.E.C. (2006) ‘La mayor apertura de una fosa común en España se para por falta de fondos’, El País (19 August), 17. La mayor apertura de una fosa común en España se para por falta de fondos El País 17 Google Scholar

Cenarro, Ángela (2006) La sonrisa de Franco: Auxilio Social en la guerra civil y en la posguerra (Barcelona: Crítica). La sonrisa de Franco: Auxilio Social en la guerra civil y en la posguerra Google Scholar

Cenarro, Ángela (2008) ‘Memory, repression and resistance: narratives of children institutionalized by Auxilio Social in postwar Spain’, in Memory and Forgetting in Southern Europe and the Balkans, ed. Yannis Hamilakis and Jo Labanyi, special issue of History & Memory 19.2, 39–59. Memory, repression and resistance: narratives of children institutionalized by Auxilio Social in postwar Spain Memory and Forgetting in Southern Europe and the Balkans 19.2 39 59 Google Scholar

Cuevas Gutiérrez, Tomasa (2004) Testimonios de mujeres en las cárceles franquistas, ed. Jorge J. Montes Salguero (Huesca: Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses); reissue of Tomasa Cuevas (1985) Cárcel de mujeres, 2 vols (Barcelona: Sirocco) and (1986) Mujeres de la resistencia (Barcelona: Sirocco). Testimonios de mujeres en las cárceles franquistas Google Scholar

Elordi, Carlos (2002) Los años difíciles: El testimonio de los protagonistas anónimos de la guerra civil y la posguerra (Madrid: Aguilar). Los años difíciles: El testimonio de los protagonistas anónimos de la guerra civil y la posguerra Google Scholar

Felman, Shoshana and Dori Laub (1992) Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (New York: Routledge). Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History Google Scholar

Ferrándiz, Francisco (2006) ‘The return of Civil War ghosts: the ethnography of exhumations in contemporary Spain’, Anthropology Today 22, 7–12. The return of Civil War ghosts: the ethnography of exhumations in contemporary Spain Anthropology Today 22 7 12 Google Scholar

Ferrándiz, Francisco (2008) ‘Cries and whispers: exhuming and narrating defeat in Spain today’, in The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Spain, ed. Jo Labanyi, special issue of Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 9.2, 177–92. Cries and whispers: exhuming and narrating defeat in Spain today The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Spain 9.2 177 92 Google Scholar

Feuchtwang, Stephan (2006) ‘Loss: tranmissions, recognitions, authorisations’, in Memory Cultures: Memory, Subjectivity and Recognition, ed. Susannah Radstone and Katharine Hodgkin (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers), 76–89. Loss: tranmissions, recognitions, authorisations Memory Cultures: Memory, Subjectivity and Recognition 76 89 Google Scholar

Foster, Hal (1996) The Return of the Real:The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge MA: MIT Press). The Return of the Real:The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century Google Scholar

Gómez, Luis (2007) ‘El Valle de los desconocidos’, El País (21 October), 26. El Valle de los desconocidos El País 26 Google Scholar

Juliá, Santos (ed.) (1999) Víctimas de la guerra civil (Madrid: Temas de Hoy). Víctimas de la guerra civil Google Scholar

Junquera, Natalia (2009) ‘El tiempo se acaba para las víctimas de Franco’, El País (8 June), 40–1. El tiempo se acaba para las víctimas de Franco El País 40 1 Google Scholar

Labanyi, Jo (2008) ‘Entrevista con Emilio Silva’, in The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Spain, ed. Jo Labanyi, special issue of Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 9.2, 143–55. Entrevista con Emilio Silva The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Spain 9.2 143 55 Google Scholar

LaCapra, Dominick (2001) Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press). Writing History, Writing Trauma Google Scholar

Leguineche, Manuel and Jesús Torbado (1999) [1977] Los topos (Madrid: El País/Aguilar; 1st edn Barcelona: Argos). Los topos Google Scholar

Leizaola, Aitzpea (2006) ‘La antropología a pie de fosa: Diálogo con Francisco Etzeberria y Francisco Ferrándiz sobre la memoria de la Guerra Civil’, Ankulegi: Gizarte Antropologia Aldizkaria / Revista de Antropología Social / Revue d’Ethnologie 10, 33–46. La antropología a pie de fosa: Diálogo con Francisco Etzeberria y Francisco Ferrándiz sobre la memoria de la Guerra Civil Ankulegi: Gizarte Antropologia Aldizkaria / Revista de Antropología Social / Revue d’Ethnologie 10 33 46 Google Scholar

Llamazares, Julio (1985) Luna de lobos (Barcelona: Seix Barral). Luna de lobos Google Scholar

Passerini, Luisa (1987) Fascism in Popular Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Fascism in Popular Memory Google Scholar

Passerini, Luisa (1998) ‘Work ideology and consensus under Italian Fascism’, in The Oral History Reader, ed. Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson (London: Routledge), 53–62. Work ideology and consensus under Italian Fascism The Oral History Reader 53 62 Google Scholar

Passerini, Luisa (2006) ‘Memories between silence and oblivion’, in Memory, History, Nation: Contested Pasts, ed. Katharine Hodgkin and Susannah Radstone (New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Publishers), 238–54. Memories between silence and oblivion Memory, History, Nation: Contested Pasts 238 54 Google Scholar

Passerini, Luisa (ed.) (2005) Memory and Totalitarianism (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers); reissue of (1992) Memory and Totalitarianism: International Yearbook of Oral History and Life Stories, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Memory and Totalitarianism Google Scholar

Reverte, Jorge M. and Socorro, Thomás (2001) Hijos de la guerra: testimonios y recuerdos (Madrid: Temas de Hoy). Hijos de la guerra: testimonios y recuerdos Google Scholar

Silva, Emilio and Santiago Macías (2003) Las fosas de Franco: Los republicanos que el dictador dejó en las cunetas (Madrid: Temas de Hoy). Las fosas de Franco: Los republicanos que el dictador dejó en las cunetas Google Scholar

Silva, Emilio, Asunción Esteban, Javier Castán and Pancho Salvador (eds) (2004) La memoria de los ovlidados: un debate sobre el silencio de la represión franquista (proceedings of the Primeras Jornadas Nacionales de la ARMH, Valladolid, 2003) (Valladolid: Ámbito). La memoria de los ovlidados: un debate sobre el silencio de la represión franquista Google Scholar

Smith, Paul Julian (2006) Spanish Visual Culture: Cinema, Television, Internet (Manchester: Manchester University Press). Spanish Visual Culture: Cinema, Television, Internet Google Scholar

Sontag, Susan (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador). Regarding the Pain of Others Google Scholar

Sueiro, Daniel (2006) [1977] El Valle de los Caídos: Los secretos de la cripta franquista (Madrid: La Esfera de los Libros; 1st edn La verdadera historia del Valle de los Caídos (Madrid: Sedmay). El Valle de los Caídos: Los secretos de la cripta franquista Google Scholar

Tesón, Nuria (2006) ‘“Estamos recuperando dignidades”: El forense Francisco Exteberria ha exhumado más de 500 fusilados de la Guerra Civil’, El País (17 December), 26. “Estamos recuperando dignidades”: El forense Francisco Exteberria ha exhumado más de 500 fusilados de la Guerra Civil El País 26 Google Scholar

Valis, Noël (2007) ‘Civil War ghosts entombed: lessons of the Valley of the Fallen,’ Teaching Representations of the Spanish Civil War, ed. Noël Valis (New York: MLA), 425–35. Civil War ghosts entombed: lessons of the Valley of the Fallen, Teaching Representations of the Spanish Civil War 425 35 Google Scholar

Yoldi, José (2008) ‘Garzón atribuye a Franco un plan de exterminio sistemático de los “rojos”’, El País (17 November), 12. Garzón atribuye a Franco un plan de exterminio sistemático de los “rojos” El País 12 Google Scholar

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Labanyi, Jo