The Significance of Art in Semprun’s Writing

  • Tijana Miletic
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)


Jorge Semprun has said that his interest in painting stems from the circumstances of his childhood, spent a hundred meters from the Prado Museum (Semprûn, “Regards d’exil”). In the numerous references to painting in his writing, the canvases from the Prado indeed hold a privileged place. It was during Semprun’s mandate as Minister of Culture that the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection moved to the Villahermosa Palace in Madrid, originally intended to house the extension of the Prado collection. Although it was a real coup to acquire this large private collection for the Spanish state, Semprun felt a slight unease in providing a rival to his venerated Prado. Throughout Semprun’s writing the Prado represents a primordial refuge of inner peace and radiance. He regularly returns there for his fix of serenity, as paintings for Semprun ease the burden of the many painful junctures in living. If the space of the museum served as an early laboratory in aesthetic discovery for the young Semprun who visited the Prado frequently with his father, it also eventually became a safe space or hideout of sorts during his years as “Federico Sánchez,” the clandestine anti-Francoist agent working in the underground in 1950s Madrid. Not only did the Prado provide a place to kill the empty hours between secret meetings for Sánchez, it also informs the creation of the museum as a space of respite as well as intrigue for one of Semprun’s alter egos, the Soviet spy Ramón Mercader in La deuxième mort de Ramón Mercader, whose visits to the Mauritshuis shape his destiny.


Pictorial Reference Secret Police Female Bond Secret Meeting Female Hero 
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© Ofelia Ferrán and Gina Herrmann 2014

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  • Tijana Miletic

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