Acts of Remembrance Conference at the University of Zaragoza, Spain (April 25, 2013)
Speaker: Professor John Stotesbury, University of Eastern Finland.
Title of Paper: ‘The Reconstruction of a Gibraltarian Past in the Short Fiction of M. G. Sanchez.’
Abstract: While Anglophone postcolonial studies have long since moved on to develop a more refined sense of the transnational and transcultural, little attention has been paid to writing produced in the handful of remaining post-imperial British colonial territories of which Gibraltar is an example. The status of Gibraltar, a British colonial territory since 1704, continues to be contested. The large majority of its indigenous and settler population of some 30,000 nevertheless argue for the existence of a local identity that, while contiguous with that of Spanish Andalucía, has emerged in the post-Franco period as something definably different, with a distinctively Mediterranean complexion unconcealed by the familiar patina of Britishness that otherwise characterizes its official, autonomous, “overseas” facade. Although Gibraltar has featured widely in a considerable variety of literary texts, perhaps most famously in the shape of James Joyce’s Molly Bloom, contemporary indigenous Gibraltarian literary writing in English is sparse. A notable exception, however, is provided by the stories published within the past ten years by the now expatriate M[ark]. G. Sanchez. However, rather than examining Sanchez’s extensive short fiction based on his youthful experience of the territory in the late 1980s and 1990s, this paper will explore the implications of his reconstruction of a Gibraltarian past in his novella, Diary of a Victorian Colonial (2008) and its relationship to his scholarly historical essays such as “The Prostitutes of Serruya’s Lane” and “’The Mongrel Race called Rock Scorpions’” contained in a volume subtitled “and other hidden Gibraltarian histories” (2007). Within the context of current Iberian cultural and social politics, the significance of new writing by Gibraltarian authors such as Sanchez is challenging. Sanchez – and a handful of his fellow writers such as Francisco Javier Oliva (the author of a volume of Gibraltar stories in the magic realist vein), and Sam Benady and Mary Chiappe, a duo of authors producing a series of popular historical detective fictions set at the Rock – have started to produce a local literature that is both indigenous to Iberia (albeit a tiny part) and also enunciated primarily in English rather than in Spanish or Portuguese or one of the minority languages of the peninsula. At the same time, however, it may well be significant that in October 2013 the post/colonial territory will be staging its first ever literary festival, part of whose purpose is to feature not only Anglophone writers from overseas but also the work of indigenous Gibraltarian writers. Their combined voices, it is to be hoped, will express a blend of story-telling that in its fullest dimensions is no longer “colonial” or “postcolonial” but truly local, on the one hand, while pan-Iberian and Mediterranean, on the other.