“She told me, devastated: 'My grandfather killed your grandfather'... And we hugged each other.”

Do you have politics in your genes and that's why the novel?.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
08 December 2023 Friday 03:22
9 Reads
“She told me, devastated: 'My grandfather killed your grandfather'... And we hugged each other.”

Do you have politics in your genes and that's why the novel?

I carry a story inside, yes, and I feel that now I must tell it...

Because right now?

You see: my grandfather, Antonio Maura's son, was murdered in March 1936...

Many were murdered those days.

But my grandfather's murder, and I want to clarify it now, was not a political murder. The murderer, yes, was a nationalist; of Basque Nationalist Action, but the crime was revenge for not having collected accident insurance when he was a stevedore at the Santurtzi dock.

Why do you feel the urgency to tell it?

I worked at the Santurtzi City Council and one day a girl came for an internship and I read on her ID the surname of her grandfather and that her father's name coincided with that of the murderer...

Did you say anything to that girl?

She came to my office one day and, devastated, told me: “My grandfather killed your grandfather.” And I was stunned looking at her until she hugged me crying for a moment. And she came out.

Did they talk about it again?

Never. But that meeting made me reflect. I believe that the Civil War still conditions part of our current situation and that we will only improve it by learning from it.

Does that trauma explain today's?

That is why we must dialogue – between oblivion and memory – so that the story is accurate: only from the truth can progress be made in reconciliation, which frees us from repeating the past. And only narrative can achieve it. That's why I tell my story, which is that of the family.

So tell us.

My great-grandfather, Antonio Maura, was president of the government five times, between 1903 and 1922, but his governments barely lasted...

So, you are also family of the writer and minister Jorge Semprún Maura.

Semprún was Maura's grandson. But the family saga is very long: one of Antonio's brothers, Honorio, was a monarchist deputy; another, Gabriel, was Alfonso XIII's Minister of Labor, and on April 14, 1931.

The day the Republic was born.

The new minister of the Republican Government turned out to be... his brother Miguel Maura! Apparently, the monarchist Minister Maura left the Republican Minister Maura a note in the office with a brief: “We are leaving!” A “you stay there”.

And there they went?

Prieto, Azaña and thousands of Spaniards went there to proclaim the Republic in what is now Puerta del Sol. Another of Antonio Maura's daughters, Susana, married José María Semprún, who was civil governor in the Republic and the father by Jorge Semprún. After losing the war, everyone had to go into exile.

Why did the governments of your great-grandfather Antonio Maura last so little?

Because social inequality in Spain was brutal and generated endemic political instability. One of his governments fell in Barcelona because of the Tragic Week...

Why are you so interested in that episode?

It was the seed of the Civil War of '36 by engendering class hatred for the forced conscription of young people to the slaughterhouse of the Moroccan war: the rich got off by paying.

How did your great-grandfather rule?

His best presidency was when he had Cambó as Minister of Finance. And of his children, my great-uncle Miguel, who I was talking about, had been a monarchist minister, but he became a republican when he saw the disaster of Primo de Rivera's coup d'état, applauded by a large part of the Catalan bourgeoisie.

Well, I don't know if they did a good deal.

It was a tremendous mistake, because that military coup by Primo, sponsored by the king, ended the monarchy.

Because?

Because for a monarch to leave a dictatorship it is very difficult and Alfonso XIII did not know how. So we saw the Republic born, finally, in a peaceful and orderly manner.

Wasn't your great-grandfather, President Maura, also a conservative monarchist?

Before it was liberal, but remember that they were two similar dynastic parties in turns.

A caste taking turns in two games?

My great-grandfather became famous because he said he wanted to “make the revolution from above to prevent it from being made to us from below.”

Well, he was right.

But it was the Republic that really began the modernization of Spain with the progressive bourgeoisie, and Niceto Alcalá Zamora as president in 1931; and with Miguel Maura, my great-uncle, as Minister of the Interior: they wanted to reform Spain in the regenerationist spirit of Joaquín Costa.

Was your family already divided then?

And then, between winners and losers of the war, Jorge Semprún did not deal with anyone in the family until Felipe González appointed him Minister of Culture in 1988.

I interviewed him here then: what lucidity.

He was reconciling with the past and with the family; He established the Antonio Maura Foundation and here we are.