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Franco's Crypt: Spanish Culture and Memory Since 1936 Hardcover – August 13, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374108420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374108427
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Literary scholar Treglown, author of acclaimed biographies of Roald Dahl, Henry Green, and V. S. Pritchett, here offers a thoughtful, erudite hand grenade of a book that takes issue with contemporary narratives about Spanish cultural life during the Franco dictatorship (1939–75). Examining various works of fiction, journalism, and art, as well as public controversies about museums, graveyards, and other centers of historical gravity, Treglown argues that our understanding of culture under Franco has (ironically) been muddied by efforts to cultivate cultural memory of the period. Such efforts have, he suggests, been weakened by “sentimental politicization, escapism, complacency, and ignorance” as well as the general unreliability of memory, and the result is (again, ironically) both a persistent cultural amnesia and an unhealthy fixation on the past. Whether or not they share his concerns about cultural memory, readers interested in postwar Spanish art, literature, or politics will appreciate and likely learn from Treglown’s deep knowledge of these subjects. --Brendan Driscoll

Review

Praise for Francos Crypt:
 
“A discerning, provocative book, part travelogue, part reflection on how memory passes into history, and part cultural narrative, Franco’s Crypt establishes that much more was going on during Franco’s regime than is usually credited. Touching on prickly issues with the pragmatic detachment of a foreigner, Mr. Treglown shows that subversive elements were at play in art, literature and cinema, and that a cautious yet irreversible process of modernity had begun long before Franco’s death . . . Franco’s Crypt [is] an unflinching addition to the literature on contemporary Spanish history and a cautionary tale about the nature of the beasts invoked by the political manipulation of bad memories. It also serves as a thought-provoking study on artistic expression under authoritarian regimes.” —Valerie Miles, The New York Times
 
Franco’s Crypt . . . provides by far the best, and most objective, brief introduction to Spain’s memory wars to be found in any language . . . Mr. Treglown offers a stimulating new reading of the chief milestones of Spanish culture since 1939. In doing so, he highlights the vitality of the country’s artistic activity under Franco, subjecting the standard leftist narrative of a culturally stale Francoist Spain to sharp contradiction.” —Stanley Payne, The Wall Street Journal
“[Treglown] brilliantly captures the ways that circumstances affect writers’ lives and work in accounts of his own visits to gravesites, in his stories of monuments and archives, and in profiles of novelists, historians, filmmakers, and architects grappling with an autocratic regime . . . Behind the lines, Treglown observes, many artists and writers refused both to act as propagandists or to be silenced. This is where his book is especially powerful. His inquiries into the Spanish past recover experiences and efforts that don’t fit neatly into the rival rhetorics. Franco’s legacies had deep effects throughout Spain but were more complex than has been acknowledged . . . Franco’s Crypt questions both the fabrication of Franco’s legitimacy and the one-dimensional view that his regime crushed all creative voice and expression . . . [Treglown] is unsparing in his indictments of the regime, but this does not prevent him from showing how Spaniards created art and literature even in the depths of the dictatorship, with much independent work accomplished before Franco’s death. Treglown’s account overturns the conventional view that the transition to democracy had to wait until Franco’s death.” —Jeremy Adelman, The New York Review of Books

Franco’s Crypt, the latest book by the British literary critic Jeremy Treglown, is so refreshing. In his focus on the surprising richness of Spanish culture since the war, Treglown pushes back against a knee-jerk pro-Republican perspective—not by apologizing for the Nationalists but simply by abstaining from projecting his own moral stance on the culture of the period . . . To explain how the Spanish have come to terms with the war and Franco’s rule, Treglown narrates a series of personal encounters with people and places in contemporary Spain, weaving them together with his examinations of cultural artifacts, including public works, paintings, movies, and novels. His analysis is anything but simplistic. He shows how the day-to-day cultural reality of the Francoist period was much more complex and less planned from above than most portrayals suggest.” —Victor Pérez-Díaz, Foreign Affairs
 

“Jeremy Treglown is an accomplished editor and literary critic, who has published three splendid biographies . . . He approaches his subject with the affectionate enthusiasm of an outsider—curious, well-informed, but not deeply entangled in the political struggles he describes with admirable evenhandedness . . . Treglown raises some important questions about historical memory and introduces readers to a number of neglected writers and filmmakers. Those who want to know more about Spain’s troubled past and challenging present will find a great deal of useful and interesting material in this book.” —James J. Sheehan, Commonweal

“Jeremy Treglown’s Franco’s Crypt: Spanish Culture and Memory Since 1936 is such a necessary book: it is the first—at least in English—to investigate Spain’s attempts “in recent years . . . to ‘reclaim’ its modern history.” —James McAuley, The Daily Beast
“Treglown studies the Spanish art, literature and public works produced during and just after Franco’s rule and which he rightly thinks have been neglected by critics and journalists outside Spain . . . Treglown is right . . . that ‘memory politics’ is essentially an open front in the country’s ongoing culture wars, and that disenchantment and opportunism have festered because of unique historical circumstances.” —Jonathan Blitzer, The Nation

“[Treglown] argues, in a forthright and original analysis, that Spanish culture and the memory of war have been steadily colonised and manipulated by the demands and pressure of international ideologies . . . The conventional view of the Franco years is that they were a time of sterility, when artistic expression was censored and opponents of the regime were arrested, tortured and imprisoned . . . By painstaking inquiry he shows that the psychological wounds of the battlefield were in fact a powerful inspiration for writers, artists and film-makers, and that much of the work published or exhibited was a direct challenge to the values of Franco’s regime. He concludes that popular mythology has exaggerated the extent to which this work was ever subject to dictatorial control . . . One of the many pleasures of Franco’s Crypt is that it draws our attention to a long list of Franco-era writers and film-makers whose work is unfamiliar or forgotten but who deserve to be translated or re-screened today.” —Patrick Marnham, The Spectator

“An ambitious study of seven decades of Spanish ‘culture and memory’ . . . Treglown’s interplay of history with personal narratives is skilful and incisive. Equally perceptive is his illustration of the ways artists and writers were able to circumvent the constraints of censorship during the 36 years of Franco’s dictatorship. Indeed, his book amply demonstrates that ‘any notion that Franco’s Spain was an artistic desert is the opposite of the truth’ . . . Humans, Treglown reminds us, negotiate present and future, even when the ghosts of the past come back to haunt the living.” —Mercedes Camino, Times Higher Education

“At the heart of this enthralling book is the exhumation of a Spanish culture far too recent to have been forgotten, and too rich to have been dismissed out of disdain for the dictatorship. Whilst Treglown has much to say on the way the period has been recalled by more recent writers such as Javier Cercas and Antonio Muñoz Molina, his great accomplishment is the reinstatement of what went before . . . Close in its engagement and alive to the complexity of its subject matter, Treglown’s book reminds us just how reductive we are being when we talk of ‘Franco’s Spain’.” —Michael Kerrigan, Financial Times

“Spain under Nationalist dictator Francisco Franco was not a mute, traumatized wasteland, but a country with a complex, imaginative culture that deserves to be remembered, according to this probing study. Treglown surveys an eclectic range of cultural artifacts from the Spanish Civil War, the Franco period, and Spain’s modern democratic era—everything from monuments and hydro-electric dams, to video games and the latter-day movement to unearth the mass graves of Republican opponents shot by Nationalist forces. He unflinchingly registers the crimes of the Franco government, but argues that sophisticated, even subversive voices were tolerated and at times nurtured by the regime: novels with ambivalent attitudes toward the war and the sides that fought it, challenging art, films that satirized Franco-ite mores. Treglown presents subtle and perceptive critical readings of unjustly neglected works, showing how far they depart from the caricature of bland conservatism that some apply to the culture of the Franco era. But he also advances a deeper argument about modes of historical awareness, contrasting the confrontational and sometimes simplistic commemorative politics of democratic Spain with the oblique, symbolic but still rich expressiveness of the more repressed Franco period. Treglown’s elegant and thoughtful meditation shows us that authoritarian power is neither monolithic nor immune to the soft power of civil society and individual creativity.”  —Publishers Weekly

“This is an erudite and at the same time pleasurable and intriguing book about Spain’s historical memory that gives the best and most thought-provoking portrait of the culture of the Franco era and its aftermath. Jeremy Treglown shows the reader poignant examples of commemoration of atrocities and their erasure—bland assurances of reconciliation and durable antipathy. Informative, searching, and disturbing, Franco’s Crypt updates what V. S. Pritchett called ‘the Spanish temper.’” —Paul Freedman, Chester D. Tripp Professor of History, Yale University

“Franco’s Crypt is the most comprehensive, most perceptive book on Spain I have read in a long time. I’m full of admiration for the scale of Jeremy Treglown...


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Wilde on October 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those welcome cases in which publisher-provided reviews are accurate. This book is passionate, thoughtful and honest, a rare combination on this subject. Treglown is a foreigner who has expressed his manifest love for Spanish culture, history and people in a series of carefully considered essays in light of current battles over national memory. His perspective is that of an "insider-outsider," sympathetic and deeply-informed but also capable of taking some distance from contemporary polemics. His analysis of many decades of cultural production - novels, films, histories - is revisionist and calls to mind to Henry Rousso's magisterial study, The Vichy Syndrome. I would not have chosen to call it "a hand-grenade of a book," like one of the reviewers. That's Hollywood hype and the author's intent is much more serious. But it IS stimulating and provocative throughout; more a sophisticated guide through a mine-field.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Caroline Angus Baker on December 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When opening this book, a reader could easily expect to sit down an examine Franco’s effect on Spanish art during his dictatorship. Instead, this book extends far further, into many aspects of the Franco period, so much so that art ends up being only a fraction of the story.

The first part of Franco’s crypt gives a clear introduction to the Franco period. The book titles refers to Valle de los Caídos, where Franco is buried outside Madrid, and his behemoth is discussed, along with other monuments to the time period. The book talks about Spain’s left and how the crypt is a symbol for all things horrid, while also managing to be a figure for the Spanish right, their religion and their vast power under Franco. The opening of the book delves into the subject of bodies buried in unmarked mass graves throughout Spain, and goes through the reality of digging up such a grave. The section is laced with a feeling of resignation; that after all this time, whose bodies are they and the reasoning behind digging is uncertain.

The author gives a feeling that ‘memory’ is not such a simple beast; rather that the name encompasses many things. This could be certainly true, as memories and history are merely a recollection of the winners in a heated battle. With Spain being divided, by being its own enemy, all ideas, social and cultural norms, politics and attitudes are up for debate.

One chapter is dedicated to dam building in Spain under Franco. The voice of the book pulls back and forward between talking of the need to progress and the results of such ambitious, and sometimes failed, projects as well as the reality of what it did to the poorer people, who saw no benefit of the projects. This back-and-forward feeling in opinions distinguishes itself throughout the book.
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By John V. Diaz on July 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Treglown went to Spain, but he saw little!
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By Paul M Ostergard on June 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I lived in Spain as a student during one year of the long Franco regime, so I have more than a casual interest in it and how it is reported.
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8 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Olga Bezhanova VINE VOICE on December 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author of this book is an embodiment of every bad stereotype about the British people. For him, a Spanish artist, no matter how renowned and talented, needs to have been noticed by some obscure Brit to merit any attention. Treglown is pompous, self-aggrandizing, obnoxious, and very much enamored of Franco’s dictatorship.

The argument Treglown makes in his new book Franco’s Crypt is quite bizarre. If you agree that beautiful works of art were created during Franco’s dictatorship, he says, then you have to agree that the dictatorship wasn’t all that bad. And if you insist that the crimes of fascists should be investigated and discussed, you must surely hate Laforet, Berlanga, Saura, Cela, Marse, etc. It logically follows from this that if you believe that the Diary of Anne Frank is an important and poignant book, you can’t afford to be critical of Hitler.

Treglown doesn't try to hide his affinities with fascism. He waxes nostalgic about the good old times of Franco's dictatorship and even says that Franco was attractive. There is no difference, in his eyes, between T.S. Eliot and the fascist Franco-admirer Peman.

The last paragraphs of the book make it clear that Treglown is enamored of Franco's ideology. He tells a story of a young woman who has been searching for the remains of her great-grandfather. He was killed by the fascists during the Civil War and his body was dumped in one of the many mass graves created for Franco’s victims. In the last two sentences of his book, Treglown happily informs the readers that this young woman has had a baby and now has no interest in history, war, dictatorship, and her great-grandfather.

This is precisely the attitude Franco considered the only appropriate one for women.
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