Memoria y retorno del exilio republicano catalán (Memory and Return of the Catalan Republican Exile)
The end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 meant that many republicans went into exile fleeing Francoism. In the case of intellectuals and writers from Catalunia, exile constituted the only means of ensuring the continuity of their culture, given the cultural and linguistic repression by the dictatorship. Much later than they had expected, some were able to return but, after so many years, return meant yet another rupture; it meant returning to a country no longer the one so often remembered and yearned for.
Such events, as is often the case in turbulent historical periods, generated a need to bear witness to the individual and collective experiences, which in literary terms translated into a considerable volume of testimonial works – which continue to be published – by those who suffered this war and exile. As we shall see, memory becomes a kind of con-suelo – comfort - countering the ruptures with a sense of coherence and continuity.
For one who has had to leave their country, the land of their birth becomes part of the past, so that in such cases to make present what is far, to remember, involves not only temporal but also spatial issues. When the exile (if such a thing is possible) returns, time inexorably has passed. But what happens with the space re-encountered? In the case of two testimonial texts written by two republicans on their return from exile in Mexico – Al cap de 26 anys (1972) by Avel-lí Artís-Gener and Viatge a l’esperanca (1973), by Artur Bladé Desumvila – we propose to analyse the pattern woven between memory, homeland and return by the experience of exile. We shall see how the return, intended to contrast the idealised country with that in which the exile finds him/herself again, gives rise to a series of reflections about homeland and memory as the foundations of the exile’s identity.