The cathartic exercise of memory in María Zambrano's Delirium and Destiny

Beatriz Caballero Rodriguez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Delirio y destino, one of María Zambrano’s best-known works, is often described as an “autobiographical novel” set in the years that led up to the Spanish Civil War. This very categorization is deeply problematic and it gives us an inside into the existing tension between three key elements: memory, truth, and writing. This paper re-examines the extent to which this work can be considered auto-biographical and it reassesses its significance deserve to b in the context of the current trend of the recovery of memory. It is my contention that Delirio y Destino moves beyond the testimonial account of the events it narrates, by using the distance that separates those experiences from the present and reframing them through the use of the third person narrative and the inclusion of non-autobiographical elements, such as philosophical reflections. Far from making any claims of truth, there is a deliberate lack of factual detail, suggesting that at least some of the memories shared in this writing are fictional, but also revealing a disperse and fragmented discourse typical of trauma narrative. The traumatic nature of this discourse, but also its redemptive component, reveal the dynamic interaction between past-present in Zambrano’s thought. Freeing herself from the factual, allows the exercise of imagination, reflection and ultimately healing that makes Delirio y Destino very much relevant to the author’s present and to our own, as it serves as a cathartic exercise for not just the writer, but also for readers across generations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMemory and Trauma in the Postwar Spanish Novel
Subtitle of host publicationRevisiting the Past
EditorsSarah Leggott, Ross Woods
Place of PublicationLewisburg, PA
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • national trauma
  • memory
  • Spanish literature
  • Spanish literary criticism
  • Spanish Civil War
  • Franco dictatorship


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