Hist158CTermPaperFinal - Gregg Irving 18738648...

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Gregg Irving 18738648 greggirving@berkeley.edu 11/13/08 In what ways does Soldiers of Salamis help us to understand the difficulties of Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy? In Javier Cercas’ 2001 novel, Soldiers of Salamis , Cercas investigates the final days of the Spanish Civil War as seen through the eyes of the infamous Falange writer, Rafael Sanchez Mazas. Nearing Franco’s final victory over Barcelona in 1939, prisoner of war Sanchez Mazas was to be executed by firing squad but narrowly escaped with his life due to the intervention of a Republican militiaman. The identity of this savior is later discovered by Cercas, who subsequently reveals his side of the story and his experiences in the war. The memories of the two men, Sanchez Mazas and the Republican, Miralles, provide significant insight into the thoughts and hopes of the opposing forces in the Spanish Civil War. However, by setting the novel in the 1990s, Cercas is able to demonstrate how the war resonates in modern Spanish society. In particular, Soldiers of Salamis helps in understanding the difficulties in transitioning from the Franco dictatorship to a democratic government by highlighting the effects of ‘reconciliacion nacional’ (national reconciliation) on Spanish society. National reconciliation is a term for the general attitude adopted by the Spanish government in transitioning from dictatorship to democracy. The new
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government, and in some aspects the people of Spain themselves, believed the only way to move forward from the devastation of the Civil War and the Franco regime was to completely bury it in an unofficial pact of silence 1 . Components of national reconciliation hoped that by temporarily pushing the differences of the past aside, the new government would be able to bring Spanish society together to establish democracy where authoritarianism had recently reigned. The effectiveness of this silence helped the new government in its successful implementation of democracy into Spanish politics but at a cost. The impact of national reconciliation is seen in Soldiers of Salamis when Cercas calls Miralles to arrange an interview about his time in the war, to which Miralles replies, “Those stories don’t interest anyone anymore, not even those of us who lived through them; there was a time when they did, but not any more. Someone decided they had to be forgotten” (173). This response indicates how the plea for silence was obeyed beyond the years of transition and persisted into modern day Spain, leading Miralles to believe that no one wanted to hear about the Civil War at all, let alone his experiences in it. Cercas is trying to
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Hist158CTermPaperFinal - Gregg Irving 18738648...

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