Academic journal article British and American Studies

Mediterranean Gothic: M. G. Sanchez's Gibraltar Fiction in Its Contexts

Academic journal article British and American Studies

Mediterranean Gothic: M. G. Sanchez's Gibraltar Fiction in Its Contexts

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The resilience of Gibraltar as a self-ruling economic and political entity has been demonstrated on a number of occasions in recent times, when referenda in 1967 and 2002 (and, more controversially, in 2006, on the new Constitution Order) demonstrated the reluctance of its multi-ethnic population of some 30,000 to dilute its political and economic difference from Spain. Despite their self-evident interdependence, Gibraltarians and their immediate neighbours in the considerably larger Spanish communities of La Línea de la Concepción, across the land-frontier to the north, and Algeciras, to the west, a few kilometres across the Bahía de Algeciras/Bay of Gibraltar, remain separated by a common history that extends well beyond the formal acquisition of the colony by Britain as a result of the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. An even older significant aspect of that shared difference (as I have remarked elsewhere; see Stotesbury 2014) has been the proliferation of sieges of the Rock, including an iconic series of some fourteen blockades that commenced in the early 14th century and culminated in the Great Siege of the British military colony from June 1779 to February 1783. The prominence and geopolitical location of Gibraltar and its Rock have evidently endowed it with a susceptibility to besiegement, and it can well be argued that the full and partial economic blockades that have continued into recent times1 have paid more than lip-service to that communal experience of hardship and suffering.

Given its three centuries of exposure to British influence of all kinds, it would appear to be inevitable that literary expression of local cultural identity would have emerged, especially in the now 70 years of the post-Second World War period, with the return of most of Gibraltar's wartime civilian evacuees and the entrenchment of an education system founded on the metropolitan English model (its two main secondary schools are based on the UK comprehensive model of the 1970s) and on the English language2 as the principal medium of instruction. This has not, however, been the case. Writing in 2010, albeit with somewhat dated references, the Spanish scholar César Domínguez (2010: 114) refers to the opinion of the poet Trino Cruz Seruya that "Gibraltarian literature is a literature nonata (not yet born)". Crucially, he concurs with Seruya's suggestion when he states that the relative absence of a local Gibraltarian literary culture has been the result of its having become "lost within itself or moving in circles", (ibid)

That Seruya's reading - which I would regard as largely accurate - dates back to as recent a date as 2004 underlines the apparent significance of more recent literary activity in the colony, where since 2005 a growing number of fiction titles by native Gibraltarians have been published - not only by Sanchez, but also Sam Benady and Mary Chiappe (who, in addition to individual titles, collaborated in 2010-2015 on their seven-volume "Bresciano" crime series set around 1800), and Francisco Javier Oliva (with his short story collection titled The Night Gibraltar Disappeared and Other Stories, 2008). Even now, it would be difficult to argue that a "national" Gibraltarian literature has been established: it is simply too sparse. Nevertheless, a tiny handful of writers has started - as one of them, Mark Sanchez, has asserted in interview with the Italian scholar Esterino Adami - to respond to the challenge that Gibraltarians "need to have our own representative voice - and not just let ourselves be represented by outsiders" (Adami 2014). Elsewhere, Sanchez (2015a) has suggested that his writing is primarily concerned with "giving Gibraltarians a linguistic and cultural space for themselves. [...] [I]f we don't start writing about ourselves, we run the risk of being presented to the world solely through the prism of others' perceptions". It is this literary-cultural ideal that I plan to explore in this overview of Sanchez's own writing. …

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