Exile, Writer, Soldier, Spy: Jorge Semprún

Soledad Fox Maura. Arcade, $25.99 (328p) ISBN 978-1-62872-917-7
At first glance, all the elements seem to be in place for Maura, a professor of Spanish and comparative literature, to write a fascinating biography–cum–real life spy thriller about French Resistance fighter turned writer and politician Jorge Semprún. Born in 1922 into an influential Madrid family that fled to France during the Spanish Civil War, Semprún joined the Resistance as a student during WWII, and was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Buchenwald. Following the war, he returned to Spain as an undercover Communist Party operative, and then escaped back to France, becoming a literary celebrity with his novels (most famously, The Last Voyage) and screenplays (earning Oscar nominations for La Guerre Est Finie and Z). In 1988, he became a minister in Spain’s newly democratic government, and died in 2011 a respected public intellectual. Yet, in Maura’s pedestrian, if serviceable, retelling of this colorful life, all the colors are muted. She asks many questions about the elusive, self-mythologizing Semprún, including about inaccuracies in his account of Buchenwald, but answers few of them convincingly. Her reliance on large block quotes does not help the book’s lack of momentum. Nor does her plodding style propel it into the realm of general interest, although Spanish history and literature specialists may find her research into Semprún’s life a useful addition to previous scholarship. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2018
Release date: 07/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-62872-918-4
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