Jorge Semprún’s Speeches: Self-Fashioning and the Idea of Europe

  • Jaime Céspedes
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)


Jorge Semprún’s narratives reflect his early philosophical training and his lifelong engagement with Western philosophy. It would be excessive to call him an essayist or to refer to him as a columnist, although he published with regularity in the French and Spanish press. What we can assert is that Semprún’s role as a European public intellectual took particular shape through his public addresses and speeches, especially in the aftermath of L’écriture ou la vie (1994), the concentration camp narrative for which he was internationally acclaimed. Already viewed as one of the last survivor-writers of the camps, he increasingly received invitations, in official and private ceremonies mainly in France and Germany, to talk about his internment at Buchenwald.1 However, we will see here that those speeches were not simply devoted to commemorating significant junctures of the history of World War II or of its victims, nor do they exclusively revisit the terrors of camp life and death. Rather, Semprún consistently employed his speeches as opportunities to prolong and refine his public persona in light of his own biography but also in relation to an implicit assimilation of key cultural figures evoked in his addresses.


Concentration Camp European History Jewish Culture Labor Assignment Nazi Concentration Camp 
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  1. 21.
    Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, New York: A. A. Knopf, 1997.Google Scholar

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© Ofelia Ferrán and Gina Herrmann 2014

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  • Jaime Céspedes

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