Spanish writer, activist Jorge Semprun dies aged 87

8th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spanish writer, left-wing activist and former culture minister Jorge Semprun died in Paris on Tuesday aged 87, his grandson Thomas Landman said.

Semprun, who went into exile in France with his family after the Spanish Civil War, died "very peacefully" at home, Landman said.

Semprun was born on December 10, 1923, in Madrid, the son of a leading politician and the grandson of a former prime minister.

Living most of his life in France, where his family eventually settled after the Republicans were driven out of Madrid in 1937, Semprun adopted French as his working language.

He was to return to Spain after World War II, first as an underground communist militant and later as a government minister, after Franco's death led to the return of democracy.

He remained loyal to left-wing causes all his life. But having experienced the worst that both Nazism and Stalinism could offer, he summed up his philosophy in his later years by saying: "The jungle of the market is better than the totalitarian zoo."

He also wrote for the cinema and contributed major screenplays for Alain Resnais, with "La Guerre est Finie" (The War is Over) and "Stavisky", and for Costa Gavras, with the classic political dramas "Z" and "L'Aveu" (The Confession).

All but "Stavisky" starred Yves Montand, about whom Semprun later wrote an acclaimed biography.

With the restoration of democracy to Spain, Semprun became a prominent figure in Spanish as well as French cultural circles, and his stint as culture minister in Madrid, where he served as a non-party member of the Socialist government from 1988, was the logical culmination of his political career.

He stepped down in 1991, his independent opinions having seriously incommoded several of his cabinet colleagues, and returned to Paris to resume writing.

His experiences in government were the subject of his memoir "Federico Sanchez vous salue bien", whose title echoes his earlier account of life in the Spanish Communist party, "The Autobiography of Federico Sanchez".

His later work included "L'Ecriture ou la Vie" (Writing or Life), in which he returned yet again to the problem of finding an appropriate tone for describing the indescribable, his concentration camp experiences.

© 2011 AFP

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