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review 2018-04-26 12:17
A book for those who are not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions and are willing to challenge the status quo.
Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War: History, Fiction, Photography - Sebastiaan Faber

Thanks to Edelweiss and to the publishers (Vanderbilt University Press) for providing me a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I was drawn to this book because although I was born and grew up in Spain, I have spent the last 25 years of my life in the UK, and between the time invested in education and work, I know I have missed some of the big debates about the past that have taken place in the country. From personal experience, I know that living abroad gives you a different perspective, usually wider, on a country’s history and society, and I was interested to learn the opinions of a foreign Hispanist on the controversial topic of the book.

This book was illuminating for me. I’ve discovered that I need to catch up and read books, watch documentaries, and explore the memory movement in Spain. I know some details thanks to my mother’s family, but it is a drop in the ocean compared to the many initiatives and projects that have been implemented. I learned about laws (helpful and, mostly, unhelpful), about controversy and debates, about the origin of well-known photographs and documents (including the fact that photographers shared cameras and subjects during the Spanish Civil War, and no matter what their intent, those photographs also had, even at the time, a commercial value), about the uneasy relationship between Culture, cultural objects, and History. Is fiction less valuable when it comes to documenting the reception and the collective memory of a historical event? Or more?

Although I am not an expert in History, I have read some History books over the years and one of the things I found more refreshing about this volume, which collects a variety of essays on topics that fit in well together, is the fact that rather than offering an authoritative version of events or pontificating about the right or wrong way of looking at a particular period in history, it asks questions. On relevancy: how can an academic book written in English discussing events and recent debates about Spanish history and politics reach a wider audience? Are academics simply talking to themselves without ever reaching the general public (unless given an “official” status)? On the approach and the position historians should take when researching and writing their findings: Can historical essays and books ever be “neutral”? And should they be “neutral”? Isn’t it better to be open about one’s point of view and allegiances? (As the author observes, WWII historians are clearly positioned when writing about the war, but in Spain, this is frowned upon). On comparative studies and the risks of conflating similar events in different countries and eras, thereby missing the most interesting and fruitful aspects for analysis: Is it legitimate to apply international models (like those developed through the Holocaust studies) to the Spanish Civil War and the Francoist repression?  On the position of the intellectuals and how politics and affiliations affect even those who try hardest to be rigorous. How can those intellectuals who were heavily invested in the Transition open up to other opinions and not consider them a personal criticism? On the memory movement, the hurdles faced by those trying to find out more about relatives or friends, and about the resistance of historians to see any value in memory narratives. Is forgetting the past the best option, or do the unhealed wounds and traumas that have been festering, no matter how long for, always find a way to resurface? About the boom in historical fiction novels about the Civil War and what they tell us about society and popular opinion. Although the author’s opinions are clearly stated, the questions hang there and readers can take them up and find their own answers.

As I said, I cannot claim to any expertise on the topic, and I suspect experts will have much to take issue with in this book, but for me, it helps provide the tools to answer some of the questions that inform the author’s work and that are the same that a large part of the Spanish population are asking. Quoting from the book:

How have history, fiction, and photography shaped Spanish memory? How has democratic Spain dealt with the legacy of the Civil War, the Franco dictatorship, and the Transition? And how have academics, writers, filmmakers, photographers, and journalists in Spain and elsewhere engaged with a collective process that is central to the country’s future as a unified, functioning democracy?

In view of recent events, these questions are more pressing and relevant than ever, and I hope this book reaches as wide an audience as possible. I recommend it to anybody who is open to fresh perspectives on the subject and is up for a challenging — but ultimately rewarding— read.

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url 2016-02-17 20:00
watch documentaries online

A great site for those of you who want to discover new knowledge in the documentary format. Docur features loads of documentaries that you can watch online.

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text 2015-09-04 06:34
So in addition to books, I have a thing for TV...

...sort of.
I don't have cable anymore, but in high school I used to BINGE on the History Channel, NatGeo, and later, the Science Channel. I love love LOVE television documentaries on the paranormal or interesting/weird events in history. I also love TV shows that feature real people from history that you don't hear about often (I haven't seen Season 3 of AHS but that's a good example), or real events that aren't in all the history books, or that are based off of literature (like Sherlock). This October I'll do my yearly top 10 creepy TV documentaries post, but for now I was thinking I'd go ahead and start posting little articles here and there about some of the things I've learned from my obsession with TV.

I've been meaning to do this forever- I've learned so much from the History Channel and NatGeo, it's kind of ridiculous. I keep starting sections in my notebook to go back and record everything I think of that I've learned from TV but so far I've sucked at that. 

So if you have any requests, send them my way! And if anyone ever needs help gathering research (I know a lot of people probably hate it), I'm your gal! I love going to libraries and scouring the internet for information, taking sloppy terrible notes and then re-writing them. :D 
Anywho, my busiest blogging days are going to be Saturday and Monday this week- I'm still learning how to handle more than one 'event' (school, work, writing) a day. Getting better though! 


Hope everyone is having a lovely week,

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text 2014-06-21 03:31
In Which I Am A Huge Lucy Worsley Fan...

So back in my post on the Glorious Georges, etc. I mention Lucy Worsley and her book on Courtiers. And I somehow didn't mention her many documentaries. (Though I will have several video links when I review that book!) (I also noted that there were other Worsley fans in the comments, so I felt it was time to post some links!)


Here're some other blog posts I've made that mention her, and have links to some of the videos. (Er, not that I've checked recently to see if the links still work.)


Lucy Worsley's Developing the Regency Brand (14 Nov 2013)


A Very British Murder: Yes I'm Addicted to Documentaries! (15 Nov 2013)

(Around this post I finally figured out that if Worsley has a book out, search for the title on youtube and odds are you'll find a video.)


I Know I Said I Would Stop But - Hoopskirt Question Answered! (16 Nov 2013)


Interestingly the HoopSkirt Question in that last entry was something I blogged about again here:


Reading in Progress: Ladies of the Grand Tour, A Quote, and Chamber Pots When Least Expected (15 Apr 2014)


Apparently I'm continually fascinated by chamber pots in history. But so is Lucy Worsley! [insert gleeful fan-ish moment]


Also do be sure to keep an eye on Worsley's blog. She recently had a particularly fun post - History's Most Blingtastic Weddings - where she compares the Kim Kardashian and Kanye West wedding with those of lavish royal weddings in history. And don't miss the one about Buckingham Palace Garden Parties.

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review 2014-03-15 16:06
Synergy this week in my ears: South America and Mars
A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown - Julia Scheeres

This week, I've been finishing the audiobook version of A Thousand Lives, Scheeres' account of the Jonestown massacre. I have also discovered Thirty Seconds to Mars. Tears and awe in the car--and I've been amazed at the eerie appropriateness of the lyrics to many songs on the LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS album. They sound as if they are describing Jim Jones:


I'm tired of the waiting,
For the end of all days.
The prophets are preaching,
That the gods are needing praise.
The headlights are coming,
Showing me the way.
The serpents are singing,
A song that's meant to say:

All we need is faith.
A maniac's new love song.
Destruction is his game.
I need a new direction,
Cause I have lost my way.
The maniac messiah,
Destruction is his game.
A beautiful liar,
Love for him is pain.
The temples are now burning,
Our faith caught up in flames.
I need a new direction,
Cause I have lost my way.

--"End of All Days"


I loved this book because it was about the people who lived and died at Jonestown, rather than Jim Jones himself. It humanized the whole event--and it celebrated Congressman Leo Ryan, the only US Senator to be assassinated while performing his duties. Imagine your congressman being told that you are concerned about relatives living in a foreign country, possibly being held against their will. Now imagine that senator flying to that country in response to personally check on those relatives' welfare.


You can't do it, can't you?

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