Past: A Memoir


In July 2013, just as a full-blown diplomatic row was erupting between Britain and Spain over the Rock of Gibraltar, Joseph Sanchez collapsed and died while cycling in Taraguilla, a Spanish village twenty miles north of the border. In this honest and sensitively written memoir Gibraltarian author M. G. Sanchez relates the hardships his family endured while trying to repatriate his father’s remains during one of the most acrimonious phases in recent Gibraltarian history. Part-family memoir, part-act of remembrance, Past: A Memoir (2016) mixes personal reminiscences with political and historical commentary in a shifting, multi-layered narrative which explores — and vigorously upholds — what it means to be Gibraltarian. 

“With Sebaldian elegance and candor, M. G. Sanchez’ s prose meanders through inner and outer geographies. PAST: A MEMOIR converses with photographs and personal memories as it crosses linguistic, cultural, national and genre lines. Sketch by sketch, Sanchez puts together a kaleidoscopic vision of his father and his family history: over four generations of Gibraltarians making a home in this outpost in the Mediterranean." Professor Ana Maria Manzanas Calvo, Departamento de Filología Inglesa, Universidad de Salamanca.

"M. G. Sanchez's memoir is a moving account of the personal and emotional consequences for Gibraltarians of Spain's ongoing claim over the sovereignty of the Rock.  It will stand as an essential source for scholars of international relations and of history when it comes to writing about the social and cultural aspects of the Spanish claim.  But more than that, the frankness with which the account is written will give support and comfort to people confronting the difficulties of personal loss." Dr Chris Grocott, University of Leicester, co-author of GIBRALTAR: A MODERN HISTORY. 

"I enjoyed M. G. Sanchez’s memoir a great deal. Running through it is the theme of understanding and reconciliation, be it concerning his complex relationship with his late father, or Gibraltar’s tempestuous relationship with Spain. It is a story that is simply and movingly told, one that shows how profoundly we are shaped by both our families and communities, but also by our own efforts to define ourselves as individuals." Dr Daniel Weston, Department of Language and Literature, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“M. G. Sanchez succeeds where many scholars fail, humanizing the struggles of people who are often trapped between the Rock of Gibraltar and the hard place of Spain. This undoubtedly has become one of my favorite books on Gibraltar.”  Dr Bryce Peake, Department of Media and Communications Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

"This is an evocative story of love and loss, related with honesty and sensitivity." Rebecca Gabay, Postgraduate researcher, University of Gibraltar. 

"Fascinating how M. G. Sanchez portrays what 'being Gibraltarian' means through his life story."  Dr Cristina Suárez-Gómez, Departament de Filologia Espanyola, Moderna i Clàssica, Universitat de les Illes Balears.

"Writing PAST: A MEMOIR enables M.G. Sanchez to explore the political tension between Gibraltar and Spain, and to relate it to his own family history.... PAST becomes a passionate defence of Gibraltarian identity and cultural continuity, braiding a bitter-sweet patriotism with the mixed emotions of paternal love." Nicholas Rankin, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

"Vividly written, this book interweaves intimate memories and cultural references in an effort to explore the identity of Gibraltar, its people and life there in general."  Dr Esterino Adami, Department of Humanities, University of Turin.

PAST: A MEMOIR is a personal and honest biographical account. M. G. Sanchez skilfully uses his personal experience, recollections and family album to provide a wider picture of Gibraltar. I particularly enjoyed the mention of certain corners and places in Gibraltar which I have passed many times without noticing. Next time I go to Gibraltar I will doubtlessly see them in a different light and stop a while!”  Dr David Levey, Departamento de Filología Francesa e Inglesa, Universidad de Cádiz.

"This memoir works on several levels -- as a personal story, as an elegy to his late father, but also as a discussion of the complex intimate relationship between Gibraltar and its immediate neighbour to the north and west: Spain. Well worth reading together with his short fiction and longer fiction, as well as with his collections of essays concerned with the origins and history of the community of Gibraltar." Professor John A. Stotesbury, Department of English, University of Eastern Finland.

“This is a patient and sensitive memory of a father-son relationship, expressing universal sentiments familiar to anyone who has suffered loss, while at once capturing the idiosyncrasies of one family’s experiences in the peculiar place that is contemporary Gibraltar.” Dr Sasha D. Pack, Department of History, University at Buffalo.