In this new book, Angel Loureiro proposes an ethics of autobiography that will change the way the genre is perceived. Previous studies of autobiography have focused primarily on the strategies of self-knowledge or self-creation displayed in writing about self. This emphasis on cognition leaves many unanswered questions, Loureiro asserts, because a fundamental dimension of the genre, what he calls the ethics of autobiography, has escaped critical attention up to now.
To address this oversight, Loureiro draws from his own experiences as well as from a wide range of previous theoretical works on autobiography, especially from the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, who believed that the self does not begin as a self-positing consciousness but as a response to an address from the other. On this basis, Loureiro then brilliantly traces the complex interplays between the political, discursive, rhetorical, and ethical dimensions of autobiography.
After laying out these theoretical foundations, Loureiro puts them to work in analyzing four of the most fascinating autobiographies written by Spanish exiles: The Life of Joseph Blanco White, who lived from 1775 to 1841, Memoria de la Melancolia by Maria Teresa Leon (1904-1988), Coto vedado and En los reinos de taifa by Juan Goytisolo (born 1931), and Literature or Life by Jorge Semprun (born 1923). The lives of these authors, all of whom were exiled for political reasons, were disrupted by some of the most crucial events in Spain's tortuous road to modernity and democracy.
The book closes with a discussion of why there have been so few critical examinations of autobiographies written in modern Spain. Loureiro proposes that, even in today's Spain, stifling social and political forces smother ethical responsibility, which is an essential ingredient in creating autobiographies that dare to be more than a humdrum inventory of personal recollections. Only in exile have Spanish authors seemed able to find the conditions to write their lives in a truly responsible manner. This answer to a call that grounds the subject in an other is ultimately the only form of truth available in autobiography.