Tijana Miletic

European Literary Immigration

into the French Language

Readings of Gary, Kristof, Kundera and Semprun

Jorge Semprun

(1923 - 2011)

Jorge SemprunJorge Semprun was born on 10th December 1923 in Madrid into a notable Republican family, the son of a Republican diplomat and grandson of a prime minister of the king Alfonso XII. At the beginning of the Spanish civil war in 1936 his family went into exile. Semprun pursued his schooling in The Hague, then Paris, where he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. He joined the resistance movement in 1941 and the Spanish communist party in 1942, and was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Buchenwald in 1943. He came back to Paris in 1945. He worked as a translator for Unesco until 1952, and from 1953 until 1962 worked clandestinely for the Spanish Communist Party against Franco's regime, using the pseudonym Federico Sanchez.

He published his first novel, Le Grand Voyage, about his experiences in the concentration camps in 1963, and when he was excluded from the Spanish Communist Party in 1964, he devoted himself fully to his writing. In addition to novels, he has also written several screenplays, among them the screenplay for Alain Resnais' La Guerre est finie (1966). He wrote most of his books in French except for two political memoirs: Autobiographie de Federico Sanchez (1977), his account of his time in the Spanish Communist Party, and Federico Sánchez vous salue bien (1993), about his ministerial experiences; and more recently Veinte años y un día (Vingt ans et un jour) which is the first novel he has written directly in Spanish.

From 1988 to 1991 he was Spanish Minister of Culture in the government of Felipe Gonzalez. He has won numerous literary prizes and was elected a member of the Académie Goncourt in 1996. He died in Paris on 7th June 2011.

shown above: 12 Calle Alfonso XI, Madrid, where Semprun spent his childhood.

  • In French
  • L'Algarabie (Paris: Fayard, 1981)
  • La Montagne blanche (Paris: Gallimard, 1986)
  • Adieu, vive clarté ... (Paris: Gallimard, 1998)
  • L'Écriture ou la vie (Paris: Gallimard, 1994)
  • Vingt ans et un jour, translated from Spanish by Serge Mestre (Paris: Gallimard, 2004)
  • In English
  • Literature or Life, translated by Linda Coverdale (New York: Viking, 1997)