Jeremy Treglown, que escribe un libro sobre la influencia del régimen de Franco en la cultura e incultura de las Españas, comenta con simpatía el nuevo ensayo de Henry Kamen, The Disinherited: The Exiles who Created Spanish Culture (Allen Lane £30, 528 páginas). Si lo entiendo bien, la tesis central del gran historiador pudiera ser esta: de la importancia de los exilados y desterrados en la cultura española…
Tesis que nada me cuesta compartir. De la inexistencia de España se publicó (Tecnos) en 1998. Y una de sus tesis y temas recurrentes quizá sea muy semejante: una de las formas más castizas de ser español (“palabra extranjera”, según el ensayo canónico de Américo Castro) es vivir en el destierro, dentro o fuera de la propia patria natal, desterrado por la fuerza de las cosas o las ideas dominante. Tesis, la del destierro de los españoles dentro y fuera de España (Españoles de tres mundos, extranjeros en su patria), que ilustro a través de las jarchas, el Libro del Buen Amor, Moisés de León, Ibn Arabi, Gracilaso, Cervantes, Quevedo, don Juan, Bécquer, Rosalía, JRJ, Antonio Machado, Cernuda, Verdaguer, Pla, Riba y un largísimo etcétera que va de las jarchas a Luis Rosales. Véase el índice de De la inexistencia de España. Perdón por la inmodestia: Nobody is perfect.
Fernando García de Cortazar ya había intervenido en ese terreno: Altamira, Américo Castro, Sánchez Albornoz, Madariaga… ¡¡y yo..!!!
Financial Times, 17 marzo 2007, Jeremy Treglown, The drain on Spain:
«Spain is the great producer of exiles,» the hispanophile V.S. Pritchett commented wryly in the 1950s. And indeed, no other country has ever inflicted such a lengthy and thorough brain drain on itself. In his travel book The Spanish Temper, Pritchett described Spain as «…a country unable to tolerate its own people. The Moors, the Jews, the Protestants, the reformers – out with them; and out, at different periods, with the liberals, the atheists, the priests, the kings, the presidents, the generals, the socialists, the anarchists, fascists and communists; out with the Right, out with the Left, out with every government.»
Out, he might have added, with individual scientists, architects, musicians, artists, painters, philosophers, historians, even saints. The eminent historian of Spain, Henry Kamen has now written an encyclopaedic history of this Spanish diaspora. From Ignatius Loyola to Picasso, and from the 16th-century Jewish writer Mateo Aleman to the civil-war novelist Arturo Barea, all of Spain’s greatest exiles find a home in The Disinherited: The Exiles who Created Spanish Culture.
Kamen’s book covers 1492 to 1975. The first date is that of Spain’s final onslaught on its own Muslims – citizens and former rulers there over seven centuries: even more time than has passed since – and its expulsion of Jews who had made the peninsula their home for more than a millennium. The second is the year when that most durable of philistine dictators, Francisco Franco, died.
This history is as rich in context as one would expect from the author of Spain’s Road to Empire and The Spanish Inquisition but the focus is on individuals: those whom Kamen unashamedly calls the cultural elite. Though organised thematically and by period, the book can be read as a biographical dictionary of Spain’s artists and intellectuals. Some of the entries are spiritedly revisionist. Miguel de Unamuno’s claims as a serious philosopher, for example, are skewered – not least by an aside that although Unamuno’s first job was as Salamanca’s professor of Greek, he couldn’t read the language.
Groups, whether professional, artistic or political, are less in evidence, but quotations from other writers help fill the gaps. Thomas Carlyle’s vivid memory of mid-1820s Euston, where small crowds of fugitive Spanish liberals, «stately tragic figures, in proud threadbare cloaks» drifted around dislocatedly, makes one want to know more about who they were. Certainly, they were true exiles in the political sense: refugees and asylum seekers.
Many of Kamen’s other «disinherited», however, were economic migrants. This inclusiveness, rewarding in some ways, can confuse the issue. Although he quotes Edward Said with apparent admiration, Kamen is refreshingly sceptical about Said’s idea that intellectuals are by definition in exile. For about half of Kamen’s subjects, whether the composer Manuel de Falla, the painter Juan Gris, or their precursors, living abroad was essentially a matter of going where the work was. If exile means no more than the homesickness of migrant professionals, though, The Disinherited surely needs an even bigger cast list.
In truth, the book is more (and more valuably) a history of Spain’s cultural impact on, and love-hate relationship with, the rest of the world than it is a history of exile in any strict sense. This mix of range and slightly fuzzy argument is at its least helpful in the sections about the Franco era. Many of the most distinctive voices overheard here belonged to people whose work was censored, derided or simply ignored under Franco. Some were imprisoned, tortured, even murdered. Kamen shakes his head over their fates but for someone so attentive, elsewhere, to the power of individuals, he seems oddly reluctant to hold anyone responsible.
Any study so comprehensive is bound to be challenged at points. And it’s a sign of how up to date this one is that it already needs revision. It’s true, for example, that the Spanish communist novelist Jorge Semprun has spent most of his career in France – before and after surviving the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald – and writes in French, but not, as Kamen claims, that his themes «do not fall within the historic experience of Spaniards». Last year, Semprun published a novel in Spanish about the civil war.
Kamen offers absorbing thoughts on almost every page – for example, his musings on Spain’s version of Yiddish, judeoespanol, which is still spoken in parts of Turkey and Israel. Apart from the intrinsic interest of its subject, The Disinherited helps to explain some of the paradoxes of today’s democratic, European Spain. And it carries a hopeful, if indirect, message for anyone who doubts whether a historically divided and self-mutilating country can ever fully transform itself.