Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Embodying Memory in Contemporary Spain

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Embodying Memory in Contemporary Spain

Article excerpt

ALISON RIBEIRO DE MENEZES, Embodying Memory in Contemporary Spain. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2014. 205 pp. ISBN 978543209.

Memory is as much about the past as it is about the present. The present of memory in Spain is a highly contentious one, but much less at popular level than among the elites and academics - both foreign and Spanish included. This is why a well-informed, sharp, tempered and elegantly written book like this one by Alison Ribeiro de Menezes is a most welcome addition to the debate. That Spain is in crisis is hardly news. By far, the worst of this crisis is the tremendous personal suffering of millions of families that, since 2008, have been barely surviving due to long-term unemployment and the reduction of social benefits and services. The socio-cultural as well as the political perspectives of the crisis have manifested themselves in a deep and widespread mistrust towards - and in some sectors outright rejection of - the political transition to democracy that followed Franco's death in November 1975. With this has come a questioning of the quality of Spain's democracy. Given the socioeconomic mayhem, this criticism is barely surprising; a different matter is whether the analysis and explanations are always fair.

Ribeiro de Menezes has a well-deserved reputation as a thoughtful and subtle scholar. In the past few years, she has built at the University of Warwick a dynamic Department of Hispanic Studies. Her work there and her new book show a contrast with some current trends among both the academic left and the right, which sometimes resort to a demonization of those who do not think like them. These radical attitudes have turned even against those who are appreciative of Spain's progress during the last 40 years. The latter have been portrayed (and this reviewer has in mind the case of Santos Juliá) as condoning, or even being infected with, the corruption of Spain's political and business community. The bitter and nasty tone that sometimes appears in books, book reviews and journal debates - not to mention Spain's notoriously reactionary radio and television tertulias or talk shows - has poisoned what should always have remained a debate between intellectuals, academics and (perhaps) media communicators. Ribeiro de Menezes recognizes this and precisely for this reason her moderation and wisdom when portraying other people's opinions only deserves praise. …

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