The Kiss of Death: Farewell Letters from the Condemned to Death in Civil War and Postwar Spain

The European Legacy 16 (2):167-187 (2011)
Abstract
Right from the start of the Spanish Civil War, thousands of prisoners were executed by shooting. Today, many of them remain anonymous, but others, thanks to their writing, have passed into history. In the final hours before their execution, these men and women had the chance to write a few farewell letters to their nearest and dearest. These letters, known by historians as ?chapel letters,? passed either through official channels exercising prior censorship or else were sent clandestinely. In their farewell letters, the condemned to death informed their families of their tragic fate and dedicated their last words to them. Genuine family relics, material and spiritual testaments, instruments of denunciation and propaganda, these chapel letters are regarded as the most sincere documents of any historical period. Since prisoners expressed in them their most intimate feelings and thoughts, they constitute the most exceptional testimony of all epistolary forms practised behind bars. By using an interdisciplinary approach this essay seeks to define the material and functional characteristics of this genre and to contextualise it in the framework of ordinary writings and scribal culture
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