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The Long Voyage

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The Long Voyage is Jorge Semprún’s devastatingly honest and heartbreaking account of a young Spaniard captured fighting with the French Resistance, and the days and nights he spends in the company of 119 other men, in a cattle truck that rolls slowly but inexorably towards Buchenwald. During the seemingly endless journey, he has conversations that range from his childhood to speculations about the death camps. When at last the fantastic, Wagnerian gates to Buchenwald come into sight, the young Spaniard is left alone to face the camp.

236 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1963

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About the author

Jorge Semprún

85 books77 followers
Jorge Semprún (Madrid, 1923-París, 2011) fue testigo de algunos de los peores cataclismos políticos del siglo xx y participó activamente en la lucha contra los totalitarismos. Hijo de una familia de la alta burguesía, el estallido de la guerra civil le condujo al exilio en Francia. Miembro activo de la Resistencia francesa contra la ocupación nazi, es detenido y enviado a Buchenwald, donde permanece prisionero hasta abril de 1945. Tras la liberación, convertido ya en militante comunista, será durante los años cincuenta una pieza fundamental de la lucha clandestina contra la dictadura franquista. Sin embargo, tras advertir los métodos dictatoriales que empleaba el propio Partido Comunista, y enfrentado a Carrillo, acabó expulsado del partido, junto con Fernando Claudín. Jorge Semprún inició en los años sesenta una carrera literaria en la que explora las tragedias y los horrores de la historia reciente con títulos tan imprescindibles como La escritura o la vida, Aquel domingo o El largo viaje.

Jorge Semprún Maura was a Spanish writer and politician who lived in France most of his life and wrote primarily in French. From 1953 to 1962, during the era of Francisco Franco, Semprún lived clandestinely in Spain working as an organizer for the exiled Communist Party of Spain, but was expelled from the party in 1964. After the death of Franco and change to a democratic government, he served as Culture Minister of Spain from 1988 to 1991. He was a screenwriter for two successive films by the Greek director Costa-Gavras, Z (1969) and The Confession (1970), which dealt with the theme of persecution by governments. For his work on Z, Semprun was nominated for an Oscar. In 1996, he became the first non-French author elected to the Académie Goncourt, which awards an annual literary prize.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 55 reviews
223 reviews195 followers
January 8, 2013
A pattern formeth. Word association everyone: I say ‘war’. Vonegutt says train

So does Enard.

now Semprun.


Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

No, its a literary device.

What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force?

A train, of course.

How to condense something as big as the Big Bang into a nutshell? If it were Shakespeare, we have:


If it were a war, then start real little: the flutter of an eyelid, the ricochet of a sigh, the gossamer feel of touch, the timbre of a voice, the sustenannce of a scent.


The memory of the Moselle. The acidic aftertaste of a concentration camp: remembered. The fast forward of time. Forget. Recall. Merge. Meandre. Focus.

The fifteen Jewish children, aged 8-12 years old. Set loose down the Weimar road to the gates of the concentration camp. Given a minute head start. The dogs set loose to hunt. The not one making it to the gates of the camp. Because. The S.S. finished off what the dogs started.

The hundreds packed into a freight car. The urine soaked shirts held out into the black of night to cool so compresses could be applied to fainted bodies. Bodies who never recover but are propped up so their rations can be collected.

Semprun, who grapples with his recollections .

Me, who thinks I must stop this ouvre and yet orders The Case of Sergeant Grischa ‘cause clearly I like mental torture.

Profile Image for [P].
145 reviews511 followers
February 27, 2016
Whenever something terrible happens – the Paris attacks, a school shooting, or whatever – people invariably express their shock and surprise, and I always feel slightly bewildered by this kind of reaction, because, although I could not possibly have foreseen these specific events, I am nevertheless profoundly not shocked nor surprised [although I am, of course, deeply saddened by them]. Human history, and my own experiences to a lesser extent, has taught me that we are capable of, that we actively and regularly engage in, every kind of baseness, brutality or infamy. In a way, I feel as though, at some unspecified point in my life, I have lost something precious, some necessary faith or belief in the inherent goodness of our species, because that is what it comes down to, my anguished shrug of the shoulders: I simply don’t believe that we are, or more specifically that we will consistently prove ourselves to be, better than this.

“She’s trying to make me believe that all suffering is the same, that all the dead weigh the same. As counterbalance for the weight of my dead friends, for all their ashes, she’s offering the weight of her own suffering. But the dead don’t all weigh the same, of course.”

Jorge Semprun was a Spanish writer and politician, who spent most of his life in France. He lived through WW2, becoming a member of the French resistance, before being arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. He wrote more than one book about his experiences, the most well-known of which is Le grand voyage [The Long Voyage, in English]. I have read many novels about the Holocaust, and of course each of them are different, and certainly each of them has moved me, but this is the first time that I have encountered a narrative voice that truly spoke to me. Now, obviously that isn’t necessary, it is not important to be able to find oneself in this kind of book, but when it does happen I want to acknowledge it, especially as it – the voice – is one of the most striking things about Semprun’s work. It is a voice characterised by a lack of disbelief, it is always logical or rational, tough but understanding. ‘I never imagined such a thing was possible’, says the guy from Semur. ‘Anything is possible’, the narrator replies.

Yes, anything is possible. Death camps. Incinerators. Lampshades made out of human skin. All possible. All, and more. Semprun’s narrator is not shocked, not by what is happening to him, nor by what happens to other people. How can you be shocked if you refuse to close your eyes to the truth of the world? And that is what I got from The Long Voyage, a sense that here is an author who felt it important not to shy away from reality. For example, the thing that the guy from Semur ‘never imagined’ was possible was that a man could be in a prison or camp and not share his provisions. The narrator explains that this isn’t, by any means, the most gratuitously selfish behaviour he has witnessed. Men will, he says, steal from someone their last piece of black bread, thereby choosing their own life, their own continued existence, over the life of someone else, who is, by virtue of that theft, being condemned to death.

[Jewish prisoners being deported to concentration camps]

Having said all that, the camps are not the true focus of the story. The Long Voyage begins with the ‘cramming of the bodies’ into a boxcar, and with a ‘throbbing pain in the right knee.’ There are 120 men and women on a train bound for Weimar, bound for extermination. In Vasily Grossman’s Life & Fate there is a passage in which a bunch of people are loaded onto trucks and driven to a concentration camp and straight into the showers. It is written with great sensitivity and empathy. Yet, while Semprun puts the reader in a similar situation, which is to say that he forces you to ride along with his characters, his approach is different. Indeed, the train sections of The Long Voyage have much in common with the work of Samuel Beckett, especially How It Is and The Unnameable.

In How it Is, for example, the narrator is lying in the mud murmuring to himself, and attempting to crawl along the ground. He is constrained, and haunted by voices. In Semprun’s novel, the narrator is trapped in a dark boxcar, squashed up against a large number of people who he cannot see but can, of course, hear. And what he frequently hears are screams and murmurs, complaints and threats. It is a nightmarish and absurd situation. To Semprun’s credit, he acknowledges the absurdity, he plays upon it, such that the book is, miraculously, at times [intentionally] very funny. ‘Breathing is the main thing’, the guy from Semur says, as he clears a path to the small window, which is covered in barbed wire. Ha. Well, of course. Breathing is vital, if you want to live. And these people, who are hurtling towards their death, would like to live, at least a little bit longer, thanks very much.

“Four days, five nights. But I must have counted wrong, or else some of the days must have turned into nights. I have a surplus of nights, more nights than I can use.”

However, The Long Voyage is not all grim humour, there are beautiful moments too. While on the train the narrator spends some of his time looking out of the window, and at one stage he passes through the Moselle Valley. At this precise moment, he says, the world was reborn within him. What he means by this is that in the boxcar he has been cut off from the world, literally and spiritually. It is only when he passes through the Moselle Valley, when he recognises it, that he reconnects with the world, with what is outside, with a real place. The word ‘real’ is important here, because the situation in the boxcar is, of course, unreal. Indeed, the nature of reality, or unreality, plays a major role in the text.

In the boxcar, or in a death camp, one’s understanding of, or relationship with, reality changes. In other words, the unreal becomes real. You become accustomed to the bizarre, the grotesque, the appalling, such that a sudden revealing of the existence of, or a confrontation with, the normal is a kind of spiritual shock. On this, there is a wonderful scene in the book when the narrator leaves the camp and comes upon a group of women. Not women with shaved heads, starved to death, beaten and gassed, but women, real women, with stockings and lips and thigh-hugging skirts. And these creatures seem unreal to him, in the same way that the camp corpses, that he shows them, do to the women. I found this so engaging, for I had thought about our ability to adapt to horrendous circumstances, and our ability to normalise the not-normal, but I had never considered that it might work the other way around.

As always with these reviews, there is more that I want to discuss, but I fear writing too much and alienating the few people with the necessary patience to read my work. So I won’t talk about freedom, about how freedom is what people in prison have in common with each other. No, I will finish with something about memory. Structurally, The Long Voyage is essentially a kind of Proustian Arabian Nights, if you will allow me this ridiculous phrase, where, instead of stories-within-stories, we encounter memories-within-memories, memories, like bodies in a boxcar, stacked on top of each other. Yet instead of a madeleine, it is a taste of black bread, years after release, that ‘brought back, with shocking suddenness, the marvellous moments when we used to eat our rations of bread, when, with Indian-like stealth, we used to stretch it out, so that the tiny squares of wet, sandy bread which we cut out of our daily ration would last as long as possible.’
Profile Image for Aggeliki Spiliopoulou.
270 reviews62 followers
May 8, 2022
"Είναι αυτό το στρίμωγμα των σωμάτων μέσα στο βαγόνι, είναι αυτός ο πόνος που σουβλίζει κάθε τόσο το δεξί μου γόνατο. Οι μέρες, οι νύχτες. Βάζω τα δυνατά μου και προσπαθώ να μετρήσω τις μέρες, να μετρήσω τις νύχτες. Αυτό θα με βοηθήσει ίσως να δω πιο καθαρά τα πράγματα...
...Προχωράμε προς την τέταρτη μέρα. Προς την πέμπτη νύχτα, την έκτη μέρα. Όμως, εμείς προχωράμε; Εμείς είμαστε ακίνητοι, στριμωγμένοι ο ένας δίπλα στον άλλον, μόνο η νύχτα προχωράει, η τέταρτη νύχτα, προς τα μελλοντικά μας πτώματα, τα ακίνητα."

Ο Ζεράρ (ψευδώνυμο του κεντρικού χαρακτήρα), είναι ένας έφηβος μαθητής λυκείου.  Γεννήθηκε στην Ισπανία μα εκδιώχθηκε και ζει στη Γαλλία όπου γίνεται μέλος των Μακί, των ομάδων ανταρτών της Γαλλικής αντίστασης κατά την περίοδο κατοχής της Γαλλίας από το ναζιστικό καθεστώς.
Συλλαμβάνεται και μαζί με άλλους εκατόν είκοσι ανθρώπους ταξιδεύει προς ένα στρατόπεδο συγκέντρωσης δίπλα στη Βαϊμάρη. Στοιβαγμένοι σ' ένα βαγόνι τρένου για μεταφορά ζώων, ταξιδεύουν όρθιοι γιατί μόνο έτσι χωρούν, σε συνθήκες απάνθρωπες, πέραν κάθε αθλιότητας.
Έχουν περάσει δεκαεπτά χρόνια όταν πλέον αποφασίζει να μιλήσει για το μακρινό εκείνο ταξίδι, για τη Γαλλική αντίσταση, για τη διαμονή του σε στρατόπεδο συγκέντρωσης, για το ταξίδι επαναπατρισμού μετά την απελευθέρωση. Χρειάστηκε δεκαεπτά χρόνια σιωπής για να αντιμετωπίσει και να αναμετρηθεί με τις μνήμες, τις πληγές και τις ενοχές του που επέζησε. Αφηγείται την ιστορία του στο παρόν, ταξιδεύοντας από το παρελθόν στο μέλλον. Είναι μέσα σε αυτό το άθλιο βαγόνι όταν η αφήγηση του εξελίσσεται μη γραμμικά σε αντίθεση με την προκαθορισμένη πορεία του τρένου προς την εξόντωση. Περιγράφει όσα θα ζήσει, όσα ζει και όσα έζησε.
Είναι ένα ταξίδι αναμνήσεων, βιωμάτων του ίδιου του συγγραφέα. Μια συγκλονιστική ιστορία για το Ολοκαύτωμα δοσμένη με τον μοναδικό τρόπο διήγησης του Semprún, ολοφάνερα επηρεασμένος από το έργο του Προύστ, κάνοντας συχνά αναφορές σε αυτό. Συναίσθημα και πραγματικότητα εναλλάσσονται σ' έναν κόσμο αδιανόητα σκληρό και πρωτοφανώς εγκληματικό, διατηρώντας έναν λυρισμό και μια ευαισθησία στην αφήγηση του. Μνήμες στοιβαγμένες όπως τα ακίνητα κορμιά στο βαγόνι, μνήμες που δεν ανασύρονται από την γλυκιά αναπόληση της γεύσης της μαντλέν μα από τη δυσωδία της ανθρώπινης θηριωδίας.
Profile Image for Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont.
113 reviews636 followers
January 19, 2010
I confess I had never heard of Jorge Semprun, a prominent Spanish writer, politician and former government minister, until I picked up The Long Voyage (Le grand voyage), an autobiographical novel based upon his experiences in the Second World War. The voyage itself, a train journey, is the framework around which this astonishing narrative is constructed, as the author moves back through memory to times past and times future, always returning to a times present, a cattle truck packed full of men, a present which itself is only a memory. The Long Voyage is also available under the English title of The Cattle Truck which seems to me to miss the whole point.

I bought this book because I have a particular interest in Holocaust literature; it was simply another one in a series. But the reading was not quite as I expected. Translated from the original Spanish, the prose is simple, undemonstrative and superbly crafted. Still, this is no simple tale. In a sense there is no beginning, just as there is no end: the novel’s fractured chronology sifts from one event to another, back and forward across memory and time. The immediate voyage is a journey to Buchenwald; the longer voyage is a passage through fragments of the author’s life, a cross-section of seventeen years.

Manuel, as Semprun appears in the novel, is a Spanish communist who fled the country after the victory of Franco. He is later involved in the French Resistance against the Nazis under the code name of Gerard. In 1943 he was captured. He is imprisoned first in France before being transported with over a hundred other men to a destination ‘near Weimar.’ The truck is so crowded that the men are unable to sit down, let alone move around. The horror is compounded by the slowness of the journey, through five days and nights, a journey without food or water, a journey where even air is a premium.

During this time Manuel’s closest companion is a man only ever identified as the ‘guy from Semur.’ He seems strong and in control; he seems like a survivor. It comes as a jolt, then, when Manuel, shifting between events, simply says that the ‘guy from Semur’ was ‘left behind’ in the boxcar, that it was there that his particular journey came to an end. Later in the narrative we discover that he died on the last night, as the train approached Buchenwald, his final words to Manuel being “Don’t leave me pal.”

Yes, a terrible journey, but there are journeys even more terrible. One of Manuel’s experiences was witnessing the outcome of one that a group of Jews were made to take, even more packed and in the middle of winter. When their car is opened they are found mostly dead, either of hunger or of cold. The car is unloaded as if wood was being transported. And there are more terrible ends than that of the ‘guy from Semur’; the end of a group of Jewish children, beaten and torn apart by the SS and their dogs.

There are other conversations in this tapestry in time other than that with the ‘guy from Semur; conversations in the past and conversations in the future; in Spain, in Holland, in France and again in France. In one, after the liberation in April 1945, when the prisoners can wander around freely, Manuel visits an old lady whose house overlooks the camp, with a clear view of the crematoria. He asks her if she could see the flames in the evening, a rhetorical question, because there is no doubt that she could. Clearly frightened the woman tells Manuel that both her sons were killed in the war;

She throws the bodies of her two sons at me for fodder, she takes refuge behind the lifeless bodies of her two sons killed in the war. She’s trying to make me believe that all suffering is the same, that the dead all weigh the same. As a counter-balance for all my dead friends, for the weight of their ashes, she’s offering the weight of her own suffering. But the dead don’t all weigh the same, of course. No corpse of the German army will ever weight as much as the smoke of one of my dead companions.

“I hope so, I really hope they’re dead”…

I haven’t the strength to tell her that I understand her sorry, that I respect her sorrow. I understand that for her the death of both of her sons is the most atrocious, the most unjust thing in the world. I haven’t the strength to tell her that I understand her sorrow, but I’m happy that the German Army is wiped out. I haven’t the strength to tell her all that.

There is power in words, in the strength to use words; there is power in this remarkable book.
Profile Image for Demet.
98 reviews51 followers
November 21, 2020
Jose Semprun’un yirmili yaşların başındayken SS tarafından tutuklanıp çalışma kapına götürülmek üzere yaptırıldığı tren yolculuğunu anlatan bu kitap, tek kelimeyle olağanüstü. Yolculuk dediğimde romantik bir şey algılanmasın. tek ayağın üzerinde durmanın ve pencereye yakın bir yerde yer kapmanın şans sayıldığı balık istifi bir vagondan ve bu vagonda tuvalet niyetine teneke bir bidondan bahsediyorum. Dört beş gün süren yolculukta elbette ölenler oluyor ve bu ölüleri nasıl yerleştirsek de bize yer kalsa diye kafa yoruluyor. Anlatıcının zaman zaman tren yolculuğundan kopup anılarına dalması ve sonra yeniden gerçek dünyaya geçişi ise tek kelimeyle müthiş. Nazi döneminin bu kadar iyi anlatıldığı nadir anlatılardan. Kitabın sonunda o vagonda gerçekten yolculuk yapmış gibiydim. Öte yandan Büyük Yolculuk’u okurken günümüz ile kıyaslamaktan da kendimi alamadım. Özellikle yirmili yaşların başındaki gençler, şu anda ne kadar bahtsız olduklarından yakınabilir. Öte yandan bu kitapta Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nı, Nazi Dönemi’ni ve İkinci Dünya Savaşı’nı gören bir nesil var. Yirmi yaşında böylesine korkunç bir yolculuğa sürüklenen, işkenceler gören ve ölümle tanışanların da geleceğe dair hayalleri, umutları ve sevinçleri vardı. Anlatı, gerçekten insanın kendi hayatını sorgulamasına sebep oluyor. Son olarak çevirmen Nedim Gürsel’e de ayrı olarak teşekkür etmek gerekiyor. Çevirmen olarak şahane bir iş çıkarmasına ilave yazarla yaptığı söyleşi, okuyucunun hem yazar hem de kitabın yazım süreci hakkında bilgi sahibi olmasına imkan sağlıyor. Büyük Yolculuk’u Bilhassa Nazi dönemine ilgi duyanlara, genel olarak yaşamın ta kendisini merak edenlere naçizane tavsiye ediyorum.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,856 reviews1,371 followers
October 23, 2012
We were not there. One has to bypass Adorno. Acknowledging that, a sensual inventory of the Shoah becomes an imperative. Fatelessness is an example of such, as is this. It is a challenge. Semprun achieves the act, the consummation. Suggestions wilt, cower and abandon. He perseveres.

We do not know. Semprun relates, he apprehends, he fashions the verse from ash and yields a chuckle as gratuity.
Profile Image for David.
450 reviews48 followers
August 13, 2021
Recently, while watching a film by Alain Resnais called 'La guerre est finie', I took note of the screenwriter's name: Jorge Semprun. Watching a film by Resnais can sometimes be particularly challenging, as some of them (i.e., 'Last Year at Marienbad', 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour') are - well... 'artsy', I guess you'd say. And not particularly straightforward. (Some might go so far as to cry 'style over substance'.)

'La guerre est finie' ('The War is Over') is, for Resnais, a relatively straightforward film but it's still not what I would call an easy watch. It's just easier to follow. But maybe that's because I'm somewhat familiar with the activities of the French Resistance. 

I thought I might want to watch the film again but, first, I wanted to know more about Semprun (who I realized had also written the scripts for the terrific and tense Costa-Gavras films 'The Confession' and 'Z'). I tracked down this memoir. 

In 1942 (at age 19), Semprun, a Spaniard, joined a Resistance organization comprised of immigrants. It was in that connection that he was arrested by the Gestapo the following year and found himself (packed tight against 119 other men) inside the boxcar of a train bound for Buchenwald - a death camp. It took five days to reach the destination. Most likely all of the men assumed they would die there. 

Semprun mentions once or twice that he attempted to write his story soon after he was released from the camp. Apparently he tried, then stopped. Then he didn't seriously face the past head-on until about 15 years later:
As the years went by, I was sometimes assailed by memories, absolutely vivid memories that arose from the willful oblivion of this voyage with the polished perfection of diamonds that nothing can impair.

Once he wrote in earnest, what Semprun fashioned was something of a mosaic. The memoir does hinge on the five-day train ride but that ride is inside a non-linear remembrance. Sometimes we're inside the boxcar; sometimes the author jumps back to his earlier days of Resistance work; sometimes he skips ahead - and then back again. ~ which is to say, he's constantly playing with time as his memories, in turn, play with him:
The solitude of this voyage is probably going to prey on me for the rest of my life.

Essentially this is a book reflecting the scars of the survivor. It details how you can make it safely through one of life's most horrible experiences only to discover it will never leave you. (~ to be expected, considering the number of wrenching details Semprun passes on to us.) 
June 28, 2022
É o relato da longa viagem do escritor (resistente de guerra e "soldado vermelho espanhol") para um campo de concentração na Alemanha durante a segunda guerra mundial. O relato da viagem, contado 16 depois de ocorrido, mistura-se com outras lembranças: antes de ser preso, na prisão, depois da libertação, dentro do campo de concentração, imediatamente fora do campo, faminto e sem forças, etc.
É um livro de leitura obrigatória.
Profile Image for Jess.
154 reviews
September 29, 2020
Non conoscevo Jorge Semprún e ho scoperto questo libro casualmente, probabilmente mi è stato suggerito da Amazon, ma mi interessava (e mi interessa ancora) sapere qualcosa in più sugli spagnoli senza patria che, dopo aver lasciato la Spagna per fuggire dalla dittatura, oltre a trovarsi costretti a una vita in esilio, sono spesso stati vittime del regime nazista. La vita di Jorge Semprún ne è un esempio: la famiglia lascia la Spagna franchista all'inizio della guerra civile, approda in Olanda e poi in Francia, dove Jorge studia filosofia, si lega al partito comunista spagnolo e combatte nella Resistenza francese. Nel 1943, poco più che ventenne, viene arrestato e spedito a Buchenwald. Una volta libero, alla fine della guerra, torna in Francia e continua a militare nel PCE fino al 1964, anno della sua espulsione a causa di contrasti con la linea ufficiale del partito. Semprún si dedica all'attività letteraria e torna attivamente in politica tra il 1988 e il 1991, quando viene nominato ministro della cultura per il governo socialista di Felipe González. Muore in Francia nel 2011 e lì è sepolto, con una bandiera repubblicana deposta sulla bara.

El largo viaje è il primo libro di Semprún, iniziato a Madrid durante una missione clandestina, è scritto in francese e viene pubblicato nel 1963. A distanza di venti anni da Buchenwald, Semprún non vuole più dimenticare, ma ricordare e raccontare e lo fa parlando del lungo viaggio in treno che lo porta, insieme ad altre centinaia di persone, verso i lager nazisti. Non sono in grado di dire se si tratti di un romanzo al 100% autobiografico, ma è sicuramente un romanzo con moltissimi elementi autobiografici. Semprún rende su carta la lunghezza interminabile del viaggio con diversi salti temporali che interrompono la narrazione e ci portano avanti e indietro nel tempo, raccontandoci dell'arresto e dei compagni partigiani, ma anche della ritrovata libertà e delle difficoltà del dover fare i conti con l'esperienza nei campi e la loro esistenza ignorata più o meno volutamente da chi non li ha vissuti in prima persona.

Naturalmente non darò un giudizio sui contenuti del libro, sarebbe impossibile; quello che mi limiterò a fare è commentare l'aspetto narrativo, che non mi ha convinta del tutto. I periodi manzoniani e il susseguirsi di incisi, a mo' di flusso di coscienza, non sono sempre di mio gradimento (col flusso di coscienza ho un rapporto di amore e odio che tende di più verso l'odio) e in questo caso non rendono semplice una lettura già di suo complessa per i continui salti temporali, che avvengono per associazione di idee e ricordi (un aspetto che, invece, ho apprezzato molto). La narrazione in sé, quindi, per me meriterebbe due stelle, ma ne do tre perché mi sembrerebbe ingiusto nei confronti dei contenuti, che in ogni caso non possono essere valutati o giudicati, ma solo letti, per conoscere e mai dimenticare.
Profile Image for Antonella.
1,387 reviews
March 4, 2013
I've just reread this book in the original version (French), and at the second read it was even more impressive.

I had read ''Il lungo viaggio'' in Italian maybe 20 years ago. In the meantime I pursued my interest for Resistance and Holocaust literature. Still, ''Le grand voyage'' remains one of the best books I've read, also because of the writing style. I'm looking forward to Quel beau dimanche !.

Of course it is a difficult read, of course at times it rips your heart out. But one couldn't expect something different, given the subject of the book.
Profile Image for Saila1.
52 reviews
August 16, 2013
5 nights travel in a prisoners packed train heading to a concentration camp. The author jumps back and forth in memory and opens other windows over WW2 which make the reading dynamic and vivid. Touching, impressive and frightening descriptions of the dis-humanity and indifference which can be reached by people.
"Le soir, je demande, vous vous teniez dans cette piece?- oui, dit-Elle, on se tiens dans cette piece- vous habitez ici depuis long temps?-oui, depuis tres long temps-le soir, je lui demande, le soir, quand les flammes depassaient de la cheminee du crematoire,vous voyiez les flammes du crematoire?- Elle sursaute brusquement et Porte une main a sa gorge".
Profile Image for Laurel.
33 reviews16 followers
May 3, 2011
I bought this book at the bookstore at Buchenwald. We took a bus from Weimar. There is a village near to the camp and I looked at these houses and could not imagine living in a town called Buchenwald. It was very upsetting...it is so hard to understand the human condition. There is a section when the prisoners go into the village after the Germans had retreated...very tense. The Long Voyage translated by Richard Seaver (he was the publisher of Arcade and a translator) is great book. Semprun was a prisoner at Buchenwald for two years.
Profile Image for Ryan Mishap.
3,355 reviews60 followers
September 15, 2008
Fictionalized account of the five days he spent in a boxcar on the way to Buchenwald during WWII. Fascinating, well-rendered account of cruelty and desperation.
January 29, 2023
"Bald schon, wenn sie die paar hundert Meter zurückgelegt haben werden, die sie noch von dem monumentalen Tor des Geheges trennen, wird es sinnlos sein, von irgend etwas zu sagen, es sei unvorstellbar, aber im Augenblick stecken sie noch in ihren Vorurteilen und Begriffen von früher, die es unmöglich machen, sich vorzustellen, was nachher bitterste Wirklichkeit sein wird."
Ich habe kurz gezögert, diese Buch gerade jetzt, während meiner Corona-Erkrankung, zu lesen - aus der Befürchtung heraus, es könnte mich noch weiter runterziehen.
Allerdings konnte ich es nach der ersten Seite schon nicht mehr weglegen und fühlte mich an Viktor Frankl erinnert: der Schilderung dieser "Reise", des fünftägigen Transports von 119 Häftlingen der französischen Untergrund-Widerstandsbewegung, der auch der 20-jährige Spanier Jorge Semprún angehörte, von Frankreich ins KZ Buchenwald, fehlt jegliches Pathos - es reicht die trockene, an einigen Stellen schwarzhumorige Schilderung der gemeinsam verbrachten Zeit im Transport, der Gespräche im Gedränge und die Schilderung der Ankunft in Buchenwald.
Durchsetzt ist die Beschreibung der Reise mit den Erinnerungen an die Zeit vor der Festnahme und der Zeit danach - etwa mit dem Aufsuchen der Bewohnerin jener Villa, deren Wohnzimmer dank Panoramafenster das Gelände des KZ Buchenwald gut im Blickfeld hat.
Besonders ans Herz wächst einem "der Junge aus Semur", der während des Transports mit seinen Kommentaren für den Erzähler zu einem Weggefährten wird, allerdings nur bis kurz vor der Ankunft.
Semprún hat später erläutert, den "Jungen aus Semur" erfunden zu haben, damit er retrospektiv die Einsamkeit dieser Fahrt besser ertragen könne.

"Die große Reise" (1963) ist mit einer Widmung für den Sohn Semprúns versehen: "Für Jaime - weil er 16 Jahre alt ist" - so dachte ich mir auch während des Lesens: "Die große Reise" wäre eine gute Pflichtlektüre für junge Menschen.

Eine bereichernde Entdeckung; wieder einmal aus dem Offenen Bücherschrank mitgenommen und dankbar dafür! 🙂
Profile Image for Julie Mgt.
216 reviews
May 18, 2023
On suit l'auteur au fil de ses pensées, nous retraçant un événement de l'Histoire qu'il nous faut connaître. C'est dur de se dire que ce dont il nous parle s'est réellement passé. Un livre qui se lit facilement, et difficile à lâcher.
Profile Image for Berna.
48 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2021
İlk defa okuduğum bir yazar. Yalın ve vurucu bir anlatımı var. Çok beğendim
Profile Image for Michael Flick.
505 reviews593 followers
December 5, 2021
Grim, horrifying journey to and from a Nazi death camp; the horror and terror of captivity. Gripping.
Profile Image for Tim Weemhoff.
122 reviews2 followers
October 2, 2020
Na het veelbelovende, maar soms wat taaie eerste deel van Prousts Recherche weer wat anders. Karin H. leende me De Grote Reis (Le Grand Voyage) (1963) nadat ik verteld had deze zomer in Buchenwald te zijn geweest , in de buurt van Weimar.

Een prachtig, aangrijpend, autobiografisch boek van de Spaanse schrijver Jorge Semprun. Gevlucht naar Frankrijk tijdens de Spaanse Burgeroorlog en daar tijdens WOII in het verzet terechtgekomen. Vervolgens opgepakt en op de trein gezet naar Buchenwald, waarover hij hier verhaalt.

De dagenlange treinreis naar Oost-Duitsland staat centraal in het boek, waarbij de ik-persoon met honderdtwintig man opeengepakt zit in een overvolle wagon. Via flashbacks naar de verzetstijd in Frankrijk en flash forwards naar de kamptijd en later de reis terug naar Frankrijk na de bevrijding kom je als lezer beetje bij beetje achter de gruwelen die deze mensen hebben meegemaakt. Bruut, mensonterend, onvoorstelbaar. Bij tijd en wijle plastisch en direct.

Toch is Semprun ook op zoek naar het waarom achter de gruweldaden op individueel niveau via bijvoorbeeld een ontmoeting tussen de hoofdpersoon en een van de kampwachten aan de andere kant van het hek in Buchenwald. Daar is het even alsof twee mensen op gelijkwaardige voet met elkaar praten en een sympathie voor elkaar ontwikkelen. Het zorgt voor de nodige lucht in een anders haast té verstikkend verhaal. Ook (wrange) humor en stijlfiguren zorgen ervoor dat het niet puur een relaas wordt, maar ook een beschouwend stuk literatuur. Erg mooi ook zijn de gesprekken in de wagon van de hoofdpersoon met “de jongen uit Semur”, waarbij ze elkaar in leven proberen te houden.

Ergens heeft het boek een link naar Proust, want ook Semprun zet herinneringen centraal en de ik-persoon reflecteert veelvuldig in de passages na zijn kamptijd over hoe de gruwelen van vroeger zich manifesteren in zijn gedachten en hoe ze door iets marginaals, iets banaals in het dagelijks leven kunnen worden opgeroepen. De Kant van Swann wordt zelfs nog aangehaald wanneer de hoofdpersoon tijdens de treinreis ter afleiding het boek in z’n gedachten probeert te reconstrueren.
Profile Image for Zapatoo.
150 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2017
Wie das Unbeschreibbare beschreiben? Semprún versucht es mit der Erinnerung an die auf das Minimum reduzierte Bewegung der Deportation ins KZ Buchenwald. Immer wieder springt er zurück in die sich voranwälzende Erinnerung an diese fünf Nächte und so wie sich diese zuspitzen und er sich dem Tod seines Nächsten, mit ihm eingepfercht im Viehwaggon, nähert, so nähert er sich in den weiter vor- und zurückgreifenden Erinnerungen, den Katastrophen, den Gewissheiten um den Tod von Freunden und Kameraden. Er hat einen poetischen Blick gewählt, wenn er den deutschen Faschismus greifbar machen will - mit seinen ganz eigenen Ansprüchen an Tugendhaftigkeit und der Überzeugtheit so vieler von diesem. Schlußendlich sieht er seine Gefangenschaft und ist sein Buch ein Dokument des Sieges davon, dass ein solches System nur verlieren kann und schlussendlich Mitgefühl und Nächstenliebe siegreich sein werden. Mehr noch, dass der Mensch und die Menschlichkeit, selbst im Lager, unbesiegbar ist - sich gerade dort die Unbesiegbarkeit menschlicher Solidarität erwiesen hat; auch wenn manche nurmehr Tier sind. Aber dem stehen doch Auswüchse an Bestialität gegenüber - so mit Ilse Koch, die aus den Häuten ihrer ermordeten Liebhaber-Häftlinge mittels deren tätowierter Haut Lampenschirme fertigt. Eine Ergänzung zur ganz eigenen Kulturbeflissenheit der Deutschen, die Goethes Baum im Lager stehen lassen und deren Sinn für Ordnung mit Marschmusik untermalt ist.

Es ist nicht leicht zu lesen, nicht mit den Darstellungen an Greueln und nicht mit den anderen Erinnerungen, die um die große Erinnerung, die große Reise kreisen. Aber ganz gewiß lohnenswert und einmal am Ende angelangt - zumindest die Gewissheit gewonnen, dass der Kampf gegen die Mörder immer ein Sieg ist.
Profile Image for Jon.
127 reviews9 followers
August 7, 2016
Jorge Semprún's anti-fascist fictionalised memoir has been sitting patiently on my shelves waiting to be read for around twenty years. The author found himself defined as a "Spanish Red" when as a boy he was forced to flee Franco's Spain. He was 19 years old when captured - fighting with the Maquis - by the Gestapo and sent on a hellish journey to Buchenwald (the original French title was The Long Voyage). Semprún insists that he was not fighting for France - but for a greater human liberation that began for him back in Spain. His long voyage began when he became a refugee in 1938. The narrative weaves back and forth between his pre-war life, the trip to Buchenwald and his liberation and "repatriation" to France. He writes to preserve the memory of what fascism and the resistance to fascism really meant: "when there will no longer be any real memory of this, only the memory of memories related by those who will never really know (as one knows the acidity of a lemon, the feel of wool, the softness of a shoulder) what all this really was." Don't wait twenty years to read it.
Profile Image for Max.
236 reviews21 followers
February 13, 2016
I'll not be giving this book a star-rating, because it's impossible to rate. On the one hand, the writing is very meandering and confusing, which makes the book very hard to read. On the other hand, it's a first-hand account of a concentration-camp survivor, which makes this book important.

It is the first such book that I have read, so I do not know if I would recommend it - there may be other such books that are easier to read. But I will say that I recommend reading some first-hand account. It is completely different from the history books, and it gives a personal view into the inhuman things that happened back then. I think the world might be a slightly better place if everyone had read something like this and knew about the horrors of that time.

This book, more than any other in recent memory, has stoked my rage against and contempt for the right-wing idiots that are running around out there, having learned nothing (or, even worse: The wrong lessons) from history.
3 reviews
December 8, 2017
The whole story itself is a long-long voyage, full of pain, despair, and devastating memories. To tell the truth, i`ve never really liked such kind of narrative mode. It`s always hard for me to read M. Prust, J. Joyce, and other prolific writers who represent this literary device.
But it`s absolutely different here. Somehow, it fits the novel and moves the plot forward. It made me want to read this and put all tiny puzzles together. This unordered structure, fleeting gleams of horror, scattered through the whole story, expound on the title of the novel: The author is doomed to bear this dramatic, long voyage monologue in his head. All these entwined "flashbacks" will always follow him until the end. Perhaps, that`s why the narrative is either obscure and thoroughly detailed at the same time...
Anyway, i have no qualms of reading this. It definitely brings a lot of things to think about.
Profile Image for Nisus.
71 reviews
January 31, 2020
Il n'est certainement pas facile de parler d'un livre comme celui-ci, qui dépeint une telle expérience personnelle, et en même temps partagé par tant d'autres personnes.

Parce qu'il s'agit d'un portrait fictif d'une situation réelle (l'expérience d'un réfugié espagnol en France sous l'occupation nazie), il est difficile de catégoriser le livre. L'auteur utilise un récit non linéaire, où les moments présents sont confondus avec des événements passés qui étaient indélébilement coincés dans l'esprit de l'auteur, de sorte que le récit va et vient toujours du présent au passé.

C'est un récit trop émouvant et je ne regrette certainement pas de l'avoir lu, d'autant plus que le livre sert à dépeindre les souffrances des victimes non juives du nazisme, qui étaient également nombreuses.
24 reviews4 followers
October 1, 2011
Me ha parecido el libro más interesante de Semprún de los tres que he leido. Se trata de un relato autobiográfico. La trama central narra el viaje de varios días en tren desde Francia hasta el campo de concentración de Buchenwald. Alrededor de esta narración, como es característico de las novelas de Semprún, va intercalando recuerdos que le van sugiriendo la narración central. Altamente recomendable.
Profile Image for Maurizio Manco.
Author 6 books91 followers
October 7, 2017
- Che roba è, la felicità, Sigrid? - e mi chiedo, facendo questa domanda, se sarei capace di dire che cos’è la felicità, veramente.
Lei aspira il fumo della sigaretta e riflette.
- È quando ci si rende conto di esistere, veramente, - dice.
Bevo un sorso d’alcool e la guardo.
- È quando la certezza di esistere diventa talmente acuta che si ha voglia di gridare, - dice.
- Forse, - dico, - di dolore.
(p. 136)
Profile Image for chhaya.
192 reviews21 followers
September 15, 2019
Négy napon és öt éjszakán át tartó utazás a koncentrációs tábor felé, egy tömött tehervagonban, 119 másik politikai fogollyal együtt, csak úgy állva és étlen-szomjan, ahogy állatokkal se bánnak. Tizenpár év távlatából mondja el e pár nap történetét az író, szabad folyást engedve az utazás előtti és utáni emlékeinek, egyik témát fonva a másikba, vissza-visszatérve egy korábbihoz, míg végül egyre zaklatottabb hangvételben, de beszélni képes róla. Megrázó utazás, még olvasni is.
1 review2 followers
January 8, 2014
Ce livre est tout simplement magnifique. Subtile, tragique, réel. Il parle d'une face de la guerre dont on parle peu, en tous cas peu sur ce ton. Aussi tragique soit-il, il ne manque pas de dérision, d'humour.
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