In a studious, occasionally turgid work, accomplished British biographer Treglown (V.S. Pritchett, 2004, etc.) explores the legacy of Francisco Franco in monument and art.
As the Spanish continue to reckon with, reclaim and sift through the buried wreckage—physical and emotional—of the Spanish Civil War, the author, who lives part of the year on a finca and speaks Spanish, was moved to find out more about Franco’s influence on modern culture. The extraordinarily long tenure of the generalissimo means that anyone living in Spain today between the ages of 40 and mid-70s was born during Franco’s rule; he continues to arouse strong feelings on both sides, by people disgusted by his ruthlessness and repression and by others grateful for what they deem his ability to keep order and build massive public works. Treglown traces some of the efforts by victims’ families to excavate mass graves (the 2007 Law of Historical Memory requires the government to assist victims and “to remove memorials to Franco’s dictatorship”), such as the search for poet Garcia Lorca’s grave, although most victims were not famous and were dumped in mass, unmarked graves. However, monuments to the Falange (fascists) still abound—e.g., the annual celebration at Valle de los Caídos, orchestrated by Franco’s own daughter. While the conventional view among (European) intellectuals is that the true artists fled Spain during the Franco era, many did not, and Treglown delves into the rich, subversive literature and culture of film since the war. This is a tricky, detailed book, maneuvering between public collections and private values, but the author’s deep study of the artists involved is remarkable and inspiring.
A dense, comparative tome that should act as a challenge to students of Spanish.