Spanish exile writer and politician Jorge Semprun dies

Jorge Semprun signing copies of The Second Death of Ramon Mercader in Paris, 1969
Image caption This photo from 1969 shows Semprun signing copies of a novel

Jorge Semprun, the Spanish writer and resistance fighter who spent most of his life in exile in France, has died at home in Paris aged 87.

He is remembered for his screenplays in the 1960s-70s, such as The War is Over directed by Alain Resnais and The Confession by Costa Gavras.

A Spanish Civil War exile, he joined the French communist resistance and was captured and sent to Buchenwald.

He eventually returned to post-Franco Spain to become culture minister.

While he supported left-wing causes all his life, he rejected Stalinism, and summed up his philosophy in his later years by saying: "The jungle of the market is better than the totalitarian zoo."

Critics say his work was framed by his experience of the Nazi concentration camp and his first major work, The Long Voyage (aka The Cattle Truck), dealt with his capture by the Gestapo and his deportation.

Odd man out

Semprun died "very peacefully" at home, his grandson Thomas Landman said.

He was born on 10 December 1923 in Madrid, the son of a leading politician and the grandson of a former prime minister.

The writer was later to recall how, at the age of nine, he saw his mother hang the Republican flag from their apartment window, defending the democracy soon to be overwhelmed by the nationalist forces of Gen Francisco Franco.

Image caption About 56,000 people were starved, tortured and executed at Buchenwald

After a period in the Netherlands, Semprun spent most of his life in France, settling in Paris.

Following the war, he was involved for nearly 20 years with the communist underground in Spain, using the pseudonym Federico Sanchez, until he was expelled from the party as a "deviationist" in 1964.

His screenplays are associated with the actor Yves Montand, about whom he wrote an acclaimed biography.

Semprun joined Spain's Socialist government in 1988 as a non-party minister of culture but proved too independent in his views, and returned to Paris two years later to resume writing.

In 1995, purists in the Academie Francaise objected to his candidacy to the prestigious French literary institution.

Backing down, he was soon elected unanimously to the less lofty Academie Goncourt.

"I thought it would be amusing to be the 'Spaniard' in the Academie Francaise, the way I'd been the 'Frenchman' in the Spanish government," he remarked jokingly.