Sara Brenneis doesn’t sit still for very long. Her latest book came out just last year. Genre Fusion: A New Approach to History, Fiction, and Memory in Contemporary Spain explores the interconnected nature of history and fiction born of the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship and Spain’ s transition to democracy.
Now, she is off and running again on a research project examining Spain’s role in the Holocaust by analyzing Spanish representations of the Nazi concentration camp Mauthausen in novels, films and memoirs from 1940 to 2015. She is also also preparing an edited volume on Spain, World War II and the Holocaust with colleague Gina Herrmann from the University of Oregon.
We are so glad she had time to share her interests with us for our Faculty Spotlight Series.
Q. How did you become involved in the focused study of Spanish literature and film?
A. I was a Spanish major in college and studied for a year in Madrid. I fell in love with Spanish culture, went to the movies as often as possible and read as much as I could. I knew after that year that any profession I went into had to allow me to return to Spain on a regular basis!
Q. You make a point to examine both historical and fictional work in your research, while taking an interdisciplinary approach to your studies. What information have you found most powerful at that intersection?
A. I have been working on a project that involves Spaniards who were deported to Nazi concentration camps during World War II as political dissidents. Reading the oral histories, memoirs and novels by survivors of Mauthausen has transported me to a place and time that still remains unimaginable to most people. The authors of these texts are incredibly direct and honest about their ordeals. Whether they interpret their experiences through fiction or through non-fiction, it’s as if you can hear their voices on the page.
Q. What is the most important thing that people don’t know about your subject, that they should to know?
A. Most people simply are not aware that Spaniards were among the millions of non-Jews murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps. That basic fact has left Spanish survivors and victims of Mauthausen and other Nazi camps on the margins of Spain’s collective memory for 70 years.
Q. Can you share some stories about the people you’ve met through SabbaticalHomes.com?
A. It’s actually the people I haven’t met in person who are the most important. Both times that I’ve used SabbaticalHomes.com for long term rentals in Barcelona, I’ve stayed in the homes of other academics with whom I’ve communicated solely via email. That communication was essential to feeling welcome in someone else’s home. But what I’ve loved the most about staying in these “academic” apartments is the collections of novels, cookbooks, and DVDs that made me feel right at home!
Q. What do you enjoy most about your experience renting out your own home and finding others to stay with at SabbaticalHomes.com?
A. There is no substitute for living in a private home, mainly because you’re in these great neighborhoods that are off the beaten tourist track. I’ve discovered some wonderful corners of Barcelona by exploring the neighborhoods where I’ve stayed. And renting to other academics on SabbaticalHomes means having a common set of needs and experiences that makes the process seamless.
Q. Do you have a dream sabbatical/travel destination?
A. We’re already dreaming about going back to Spain — next time perhaps to Madrid, where I haven’t lived long term since my year abroad in college. But I’d also love to get to Argentina, Chile, and Peru some day. I’ve spent much more time in Europe than South America, so that’s on my bucket list.
Sara Priztkat frequently corresponds with Sabbatical Homes members via our communications team. Her goal is to help you optimally use our site to find, or offer, the perfect home exchange or rental. She also enjoys writing about our members, their adventures and accomplishments.