Meghan Hammond, New York University
Meghan Hammond graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in English and Hispanic Studies in 2004. After winning an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies in 2005, she started graduate studies in English Literature at New York University, where she is currently a second-year doctoral candidate. Her particular interests include twentieth-century novels, autobiography, and narratology.
Buried Alive: Narrative Potential and Mass Grave Sites in Alberto Méndez's "First Defeat (1939)" and Spain's Valley of the Fallen
On July 18, 2006, King Juan Carlos I of Spain declared a Year of Historical Memory, announcing to the Spanish people that the time had come to "remember those who had tried to assure a democratic government in Spain, those who suffered the consequences of the civil conflict, and those who fought against the dictatorship in defense of the liberties and fundamental rights that we enjoy today" (my translation). This declaration was an attempt to uncover stories of the repression of Francisco Franco's regime that have remained hidden for decades. In Spain, such stories have literally been buried in the grave, which, I argue, is a physical space for narrative. This paper is primarily concerned with two kinds of communal gravesites of the Spanish Civil War: the hidden mass grave, and the state-sanctioned memorial crypt. I approach the topic of the hidden mass grave through a reading of Alberto Méndez's "First Defeat (1939)," the story of a Nationalist officer who is buried alive. The hidden mass grave, I will argue, abuses the intended function of the burial ground by suppressing narratives, by burying them alive. I also examine how the state suppresses narrative in an official context through a reading of the Spanish national monument to the Civil War dead, El Valle de los Caídos (The Valley of the Fallen). This public site, though seemingly the antithesis of the hidden mass grave, also buries the stories of the dead in a particularly violent manner. By analyzing Méndez's story alongside El Valle de los Caídos, I hope to show that even the most violated gravesite holds the potential to release its buried narratives.