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Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War
History, Fiction, Photography

Author(s): Sebastiaan Faber

The ability to forget the violent twentieth-century past was long seen as a virtue in Spain, even a duty. But the common wisdom has shifted as increasing numbers of Spaniards want to know what happened, who suffered, and who is to blame. Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War shows how historiography, fiction, and photography have shaped our views of the 1936-39 war and its long, painful aftermath.

Faber traces the curious trajectories of iconic Spanish Civil War photographs by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and David Seymour; critically reads a dozen recent Spanish novels and essays; interrogates basic scholarly assumptions about history, memory, and literature; and interviews nine scholars, activists, and documentarians who in the past decade and a half have helped redefine Spain's relationship to its past. In this book Faber argues that recent political developments in Spain--from the grassroots call for the recovery of historical memory to the indignados movement and the foundation of Podemos--provide an opportunity for scholars in the humanities to engage in a more activist, public, and democratic practice.

Biography of Author(s)

Sebastiaan Faber, professor of Hispanic studies at Oberlin College, is the author of several books, including Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War and Exile and Cultural Hegemony: Spanish Intellectuals in Mexico, 1939–1975 (both published by Vanderbilt University Press).


  • "Faber's collection of bracing, enjoyable, and provocative essays steps squarely into the middle of Spain's ongoing (but, thankfully, bloodless) cultural civil war over the past. He plunges a finger into the country's deepest and most durable sore with a series of sizzling critiques of how historians, writers, and intellectuals view Spain's legacy of fratricide and a forty-year dictatorship that casts its long shadow over the present. Just how does (or should) Spain deal with the uncomfortable facts and emotions left behind by Francoism and the successful but imperfect transition to democracy that followed it? There is much to agree with, and much to disagree with, but the merit in Faber's writing comes from the way it re-inspects and challenges many of the assumptions on which depictions of Spain's recent past are based, obliging the reader to do the same."
    Giles Tremlett, author of Ghosts of Spain: Travels through Spain and Its Silent Past and Isabella of Castile: Europe's First Great Queen
  • "Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War is a fascinating, judiciously blended mix of interviews and portraits, cultural criticism, meditations, and reportage, refreshingly unlike any other book in the field that I've read. Sebastiaan Faber wears his erudition lightly, but brings a deep knowledge of a country he loves and of its struggles to come to terms with a tragic and violent piece of its past. It's worth reading alone to hear the voices of historians about what drew them to Spain in this era—why don't more people pose that question to scholars?"
    Adam Hochschild, author of Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939