The Williams College Professor shares her new biography of Jorge Semprún, French Resistance fighter, Holocaust survivor, spy, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The War is Over (1966) and Z (1969).
A man of many faces, Jorge Semprún perfectly personified the struggles and successes of twentieth-century Europe. Semprún enjoyed a privileged childhood as the grandson of Spanish prime minister, Antonio Maura, until his world was shattered by the political strife of the Spanish Civil War and he went into exile. Facing dangers rarely seen outside the action movies of Hollywood, Semprún adopted a resilient spirit and rebel's stance. He fought with the French Resistance in World War II and survived imprisonment at Buchenwald. After the war, he became an organizing member of the exiled Spanish communist party, maintaining the appearance of a normal civilian life while keeping one step ahead of Francisco Franco's secret police for years. Semprún later put his experiences on paper, becoming an internationally acclaimed author and screenwriter.
In this skillfully crafted biography, Semprún's life reads as easily as the best thriller, and has the same addictive rush as watching an edge-of-your-seat mini-series.
Soledad Fox Maura is a Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Williams College. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature from the City University of New York, is a former Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, and has published two books and many articles on Spanish culture and history, and the Spanish Civil War.
"On a warm Madrid evening in July of 2011, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy addressed a packed auditorium at the Prado Museum. The occasion was a memorial service. The audience was interspersed with politicians, intellectuals, and businessmen who had interrupted their busy or leisurely lives to spend the evening in remembrance. To an eavesdropper, it may have seemed that Lévy was honoring the lives of several different people: a Spanish Republican, a Buchenwald survivor, a daring undercover agent, a famous writer, an Oscar nominee, and a great European thinker. He also might have added the following descriptives: Aristocrat, exile, Communist, clandestine recruiter, Socialist Minister, Catholic, antifascist, Nazi camp survivor, honorary Jew, anti-Francoist, Germanophile, Spanish, Parisian, anti-communist, grifter, public intellectual, seducer, dissembler, radical, glamorous, bourgeois, prize-winning novelist, and autobiographer. All of these were simply the multiple facets of one person: Jorge Semprún, an individual whose life spanned the twentieth century."
--from Soledad Fox Maura, Exile, Writer, Soldier, Spy: Jorge Semprún
Please read this recent article in the Wall Street Journal about Soledad's biography and this interview with her in the Los Angeles Review of Books!