Jorge Semprún

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Jorge Semprún (2009)

Jorge Semprún Maura (born December 10, 1923 in Madrid , † June 7, 2011 in Paris ) was a Spanish writer .

His literary work (mostly written in French ) is characterized by a cover letter against oblivion. As a former resistance fighter in the French Resistance and against the Franco dictatorship in Spain, he remained, despite all the political changes, the morality of the collective resistance faithful and brought in his most autobiographical writings humane indictment of the cruelty of exile, war and deportation expressed .


Jorge Semprún grew up in an upper-class , left-wing liberal family in Madrid. His maternal grandfather, Antonio Maura , was under Alfonso XIII. Five times Prime Minister of Spain. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Semprún's family went into exile . The way there led through a village near Lourdes in the Netherlands, where his father was the ambassador of the Spanish Republic in The Hague . After the victory of the Franco regime in early 1939, the family went to Paris , where Semprún graduated from the Lycée Henri IV and began studying philosophy at the Paris University of Sorbonne .

In 1941 he joined the communist resistance organization Francs-tireurs et partisans and a year later became a member of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). While working underground against the German occupiers, Semprún was arrested by the Gestapo in Auxerre in 1943 and, after interrogation and torture, deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp in a cattle wagon in January 1944 . In Buchenwald concentration camp, he took part in the internal resistance built up by the communists. Since Semprún had already lived in exile before his arrest, the Franco fascist regime did not recognize him as a Spanish citizen. So he was recorded as a stateless person . Semprún took Spanish citizenship again after the democratization of Spain. After the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated, he returned to Paris. He later processed the deportation and the imprisonment in the novels The Great Journey (1963) and What a beautiful Sunday! (1980).

From 1953 to 1962, in the course of several unauthorized stays in Spain, Semprún (under aliases such as Federico Sanchez or Juan Larrea ) coordinated the secret activities of the PCE against the Franco regime. In 1954 he became a member of the central committee of the party, in 1956 in the Politburo. But in 1964 he was expelled from the PCE in exile for “behavior that was harmful to the party”. This was preceded by line struggles between the Stalinist and the more undogmatic currents within the PCE.

In 1988 he was appointed Minister of Culture by the Felipe González government; as a non-party, he held the office until 1991. In 2003, Jorge Semprún spoke to the German Bundestag on the occasion of the commemoration day for the commemoration of the victims of National Socialism .

Jorge Semprún died on June 7, 2011 in Paris. He was buried in Garentreville next to his wife, who had died in 2007. The essayist Jaime Semprun (1947-2010) was his son.


In 1963 Semprún published his first work, the autobiographical novel The Great Journey , which was awarded the Prix ​​Formentor , and thus began his career as a writer and journalist. In addition to other novels, he also wrote scripts, e.g. B. for the film The War is Out (1966), for the political thriller Z (1968) about the Greek military regime and for L'Aveu (German: The Confession ) by Costa-Gavras (1970).

Semprún's works are consistently shaped by memories of the concentration camp and by his experiences as a member of the Spanish Communist Party during the Franco dictatorship. The author insists that details and people can be fictional. Literary allusions also ensure that fiction and autobiographical reality remain indistinguishable.

Semprún wrote his works in French; Exceptions were the titles Autobiografía de Federico Sánchez (1977) and Veinte años y un día (2003).

Semprún's narrative style is often compared to the editing technique of a feature film. In The Great Journey, for example, the actual narrative time includes the five-day train transport to the Buchenwald concentration camp in January 1944. There are numerous memories, reflections and fantasies that began in 1936 and above all encompass the period of resistance from 1940, but also beyond the narrative time the future goes like his stay in the concentration camp, his liberation from it, his return to France. The jumps are sudden because they follow a chain of associations. This fragmentary narrative creates a network of references that gradually give a glimpse of Semprún's entire career. He describes the events in picture-rich everyday language, which gives them, as well as the kaleidoscopic narrative technique, a haunting authenticity.


In addition to other awards, he received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1994 . Since 1996 he has been a member of the Académie Goncourt . In 1997 he was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the freedom of the individual in society , in 2003 the Goethe Medal , and in 2004 the Spanish Lara Literature Prize for his novel Veinte años y un día ( Twenty Years and One Day ) . Semprún was also awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2006, and in 2007 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Potsdam .


  • The big journey . Paris 1963; German 1964 (translation from French: Abelle Christaller. Original title: Le grand voyage. ).
  • The faint . Paris 1967; German 2001 (translation from French: Eva Moldenhauer . Original title: L'évanouissement. ).
  • The second death of Ramón Mercader. Paris 1969; German 1974 Translation from French: Gundl Steinmetz. Suhrkamp Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1979, ISBN 3-518-37064-2 Original title: ( La deuxième mort de Ramón Mercader. ).
  • Preface to Fernando Claudin: The Crisis of the Communist Movement. Edited by Ulf Wolter. Berlin 1977/1978.
  • Federico Sánchez. An autobiography. Barcelona 1977; German 1978 (translation: Heide Mahler-Knirsch).
  • What a beautiful sunday! Paris 1980; German 1981 (Translation from French: Johannes Piron. Original title: Quel beau dimanche! ).
  • Algarabía or The New Secrets of Paris. Paris 1981; German (abbreviated) 1985 (translation from French: Traugott König and Christine Delory-Momberger).
  • Montand, la vie continue. Paris 1983, ISBN 2-207-22876-2 .
    German: Yves Montand, life goes on. Frankfurt am Main 1984, ISBN 3-458-14144-8 / 1986, ISBN 3-518-37779-5 . (Translation: Uli Aumüller).
  • The white mountain. Paris 1986; German 1987 (translation from French: Eva Moldenhauer. Original title: La montagne blanche. ).
  • Nechayev returns. Paris 1987; German 1989 (translation from French: Eva Moldenhauer. Original title: Netchaïev est de retour. ).
  • Federico Sánchez says goodbye. Paris 1993; German 1994 (translation from French: Wolfram Bayer. Original title: Federico Sánchez vous salue bien. ).
  • Writing or living. Paris 1994; German 1995 (translation from French: Eva Moldenhauer. Original title: L'écriture ou la vie. ).
  • Our all too short summers. Paris 1998; German 1999 (translation from French: Eva Moldenhauer. Original title: Adieu, vive clarté ... ).
  • The dead one with my name. Paris 2002; German 2003 (Translation from French: Eva Moldenhauer. Original title: Le mort qu'il faut. ).
  • Twenty years and a day. Barcelona 2003; German 2005 (translation from Spanish: Elke Wehr. Original title: Veinte años y un día. ).
  • View of Germany. Frankfurt am Main 2003 (translation: Michi Strausfeld ).
  • What it means to be European. (Together with Dominique de Villepin ). Paris 2005; German 2006 (Translation from French: Michael Hein. Original title: L'homme européen. ).
  • Philosophy as a survival science. Potsdam University Speeches 6. Potsdam University Press 2007. (Translation: Michi Strausfeld).
  • Survival exercises , narratives; translated by Eva Moldenhauer . Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-518-42384-4 .


  • 1966: The War is Over (La Guerre est finie) (Screenplay, Actor) - Director: Alain Resnais
  • 1968: Z (screenplay) - Director: Costa-Gavras
  • 1970: The Confession (L'aveu) (screenplay) - Director: Costa-Gavras
  • 1972: Das Attentat (L'attentat) (screenplay) - Director: Yves Boisset
  • 1974: Stavisky (screenplay) - Director: Alain Resnais
  • 1974: Les Deux mémoires (screenplay) - Director: Jorge Semprún
  • 1975: Special Tribunal - Everyone fights for himself (Section spéciale) (screenplay) - Director: Costa-Gavras
  • 1976: Die Frau am Fenster (Une femme à sa fenêtre) (screenplay) - Director: Pierre Granier-Deferre
  • 1978: Roads to the South (Les Routes du sud) (screenplay) - Director: Joseph Losey
  • 1991: Return of the Dead (Netchaiev est de retour) (screenplay, based on the novel) - Director: Jacques Deray
  • 1994: Affaire Dreyfus (L'Affaire Dreyfus) (screenplay) - Director: Yves Boisset
  • 1997: K - the mark of evil (K) (screenplay)
  • 2011: Die Zeit der Stille (Le temps du silence) (Screenplay) - Director: Franck Apprederis


Web links

Commons : Jorge Semprún  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Semprún reposera en Seine-et-Marne (from: Le Point , June 8, 2011; accessed February 6, 2019)
  2.  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  3. Award of an honorary doctorate from the University of Potsdam , Potsdam 2007. Accessed on January 12, 2011.
  4. Semprun's speech on the award of an honorary doctorate in philosophy as a science of survival. At the University of Potsdam. Retrieved January 12, 2011.