Event Date: 9 December 2014
Royal Holloway University of London
Departmental Research seminars 2014/2015
Professor Helen Graham (RHUL)
Stories to Get By: Margaret and Rudolf Michaelis
‘I have not spoken for hours, for months, and in fact for years from the sources of my real being […] My strength of recovery comes from that waiting within me […] How else would I have survived the many deaths I have died? (Margaret Michaelis, 1954)
This paper will offer an extract from two of the ‘lives’ featured in the book I’m currently completing, After the wars in Spain: lives salvaged from the dark twentieth century.
It is conceived as a set of interwoven biographies – of five turbulent, charismatic and exceptional lives that, while always remaining themselves, together tell the story of Europe’s dark twentieth century, and in ways that speak directly to current times. All of these lives pass through the Spanish civil war and are transformed by it. But the stories are as much about what happens ‘after Spain’, and the book’s canvas extends, through exile, displacement and diaspora of various kinds, to North America and Australia, then back again to Europe. It traces the workings of inexorable, often cataclysmic, historical change through the indelible marks it left on five signal lives, for whom World War II’s ending did not bring peace.