The Disinherited: Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975

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HISTORY The Disinherited: Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975, by Henry Kamen. HarperCollins, December 2007. $34.95

Spain is a special case in Europe, according to Henry Kamen: "In other nations, the people arrive; in Spain, they depart." Probably no other country, he contends, has had its exiles produce so many of its cultural masterpieces. If one looks at exiles' successes, Spanish culture misleadingly becomes a story of constant achievement. Kamen, therefore, makes an astute distinction between "Spanish" culture (referring to the Iberian mainland) and a broader "Hispanic" tradition including Spain and its former colonies. In The Disinherited, Kamen's focus is largely the former. One central question for him is whether exiles constitute part of their home country's culture. For example, the Renaissance humanist Juan Luis Vives is almost always associated with Spain (his nation of birth), but to Kamen, there was "nothing Spanish" about him since he lived elsewhere during most of his lifetime. …