Jorge Semprun, 87, a writer and politician who chronicled his own experiences in the Nazis' Buchenwald death camp, struggled against dictatorship in his native Spain, and later became that country's culture minister, died Tuesday in Paris, where he had spent most of his life.
A prolific author who helped develop the genre of the autobiographical novel, Mr. Semprun was widely considered one of the foremost chroniclers of the Holocaust. Equal parts memoir and essay, his Literature or Life (1994) elegantly describes his experience in Buchenwald, even as it ponders the larger philosophical questions.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the book, which was written in French, as "a testimony that's as mind-blowing as it is lucid," and called Mr. Semprun "one of the last great protagonists of an epic."
Mr. Semprun was born in Madrid, but the family fled Spain during the country's civil war, settling in France.
A politically engaged young man and member of the Spanish Communist Party and the Resistance, he was detained by the Gestapo and deported to Buchenwald. He spent more than a year in the camp - an experience that would inform much of his literary career, starting with his first book, The Long Voyage (1963).
Other Semprun works include The Second Death of Ramon Mercader, a 1969 novel that won France's Femina literary prize, and Twenty Years and a Day, from 2004.
After his liberation from Buchenwald in 1945, Mr. Semprun worked as a translator at UNESCO and took part in the Spanish Communist Party's long struggle against the nation's longtime dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco. Mr. Semprun was ousted from the Communist Party in 1962 over ideological differences.
He was named Spain's culture minister under Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, from 1988-91. Mr. Semprun was elected to France's prestigious Goncourt literary academy in 1996.