Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Helena Buffery
Travel Writing and Narratives of Mobility in Contemporary Iberian Literature
Paper on Travel writing and reenactment in/of exile: the case of María José de Chopitea, Maria Lluisa Algarra and Maruxa Vilalta
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Whilst the diaries and accounts of the passage and routes into exile of Spanish Republicans and refugees from the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War have generated a great deal of interest in recent years, as a mode of recovering previously invisible or unheard historical experiences, bodies and voices, these narratives have largely been read from a testimonial perspective or in terms of the nostalgic and melacholic need to return to the homeland through literature. On the one hand, many Republican intellectuals themselves presented their own literary endeavours as being the only place where they could continue to preserve and inhabit the homeland, leading in some cases to an obsessive endeavour to verify topographical references when reconstructing Spanish landscapes from the space of exile; on the other, more recent cultural historiographies like that of Francie Cate-Arries have explored how the collective experience of exodus was itself transformed into an alternative place of memory resistant to those created and monumentalised by the Franco regime. Here I propose to read some of these literary journeys in performative terms, drawing on work I have been developing on three Catalan women who were granted asylum in Mexico City after 1939 – María José de Chopitea, Maria Lluisa Algarra and Maruxa Vilalta. All three share an interest in theatre, and had plays published (and, in the case of two of them, performed successfully in the Mexican capital during their lifetime) whilst in exile; all three were former residents of Republican Barcelona, who evoke the spaces of both cities in their work. However, apart from this their different generational, class, educational and political backgrounds and affiliations uncover the multilayered plurality of the Spanish Republican exile experience, and provide a vision of identities in-translation between languages, communities, geographical spaces, and cultural and ideological frames. Through examination of some key texts produced by the three women in the 1950s (María José de Chopitea’s novel, Sola; Maria Lluisa Algarra’s play Casandra o la llave sin puerta; and Maruxa Vilalta’s early short stories, ‘Diferencia’ and ‘El meu dia foll’), I propose to outline an approach to their work based on notions and processes of reenactment, exploring what this reveals about their underlying urge to locate, activate and negotiate remains in the present. Ultimately I hope to show how the underlying ‘theatrical’ slant of their work both raises and challenges the limits of testimonial representation, calling for an affective engagement with these landscapes that ghosts the body in iterative and transmutative performance.