"It Would Be Insane to Love a Dead Woman": Jorge Semprún's Maternal Crypt

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Employing the psychoanalytic concepts of the crypt and the cryptonym as developed by Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, I argue that various recollections of his late mother can be analyzed as examples of the maternal crypt in the writing of Jorge Semprún. The crypt, as a space in which a subject incorporates into the self a lost love object that could not be appropriately mourned, becomes the site for the veiled expression of contradictory drives that juxtapose life and death, possession and loss in an erotically charged manner. Cryptonyms are textual clues that allow one to decipher the presence of the crypt in a text. I analyze how various cryptonyms echo each other in Semprún’s 1976 screenplay Une femme à sa fenêtre (written with the director, Pierre Granier-Deferre), his 1981 novel La algarabía, and his 1998 memoir Adiós, luz de veranos…, establishing the maternal crypt as a sustained reflection on the loss of his mother at an early age and a foundational trauma underlying all later losses in the author’s life. I connect this analysis to Laura Mulvey’s study of the filmic gaze as a mechanism for the satisfaction of male desire, which underscores the patriarchal undertones of Semprún’s maternal crypt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-275
Number of pages33
JournalRevista de Estudios Hispanicos
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Adiós
  • Jorge Semprún
  • La algarabía
  • Une femme à sa fenêtre
  • crypt
  • cryptonym
  • luz de veranos…
  • trauma


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