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"I wonder what is the appropriate first action when you come from a country at war and set foot on peaceful soil. Mine was to rush to the tobacco-kiosk and buy as many cigars and cigarettes as I could stuff into my pockets." Most war correspondents observe wars and then tell stories about the battles, the soldiers and the civilians. George Orwell--novelist, journalist, sometime socialist--actually traded his press pass for a uniform and fought against Franco's Fascists in the Spanish Civil War during 1936 and 1937. He put his politics and his formidable conscience to the toughest tests during those days in the trenches in the Catalan section of Spain. Then, after nearly getting killed, he went back to England and wrote a gripping account of his experiences, as well as a complex analysis of the political machinations that led to the defeat of the socialist Republicans and the victory of the Fascists.
''One of Orwell's very best books and perhaps the best book that exists on the Spanish Civil War.'' --New Yorker
''Clear-eyed and unflinching . . . At once history and a moral and imaginative experience. Thus the 'raw material' becomes no less a work of art than its fictional elaboration in 1984.'' --New York Herald Tribune Book Review
''[A] triumph . . . The audio presentation adds a new dimension to a text which is required reading for any student of the Spanish Civil War.'' --AudioFile
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
GEORGE ORWELL (1903-1950) was born in India and served with the Imperial Police in Burma before joining the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell was the author of six novels as well as numerous essays and nonfiction works.
Generalissimo Francisco Franco's fascist troops invaded Spain in July 1936 in order to overthrow the newly established Republic headed by the Popular Front, (composed of liberal democrats, socialists, anarchists, trade unionists, communists and secularists). The country was basically divided into Red Spain - the Republicans, and Black Spain, represented by the landed elite, committed to a feudal system and Franco's cause, Fascists, the urban bourgeoisie, the Roman Catholic Church, and other conservative sectors. The number of casualties is only an estimate, but suggests that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people were killed. Many of these deaths, however, were not the results of military battles, but the outcome of brutal mass executions perpetrated by both sides.
During the war in Spain, approximately 38,000 non-Spanish, anti-fascist volunteers from fifty-two countries, took up arms to defend the Republican cause against Franco, who was aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Twenty-eight hundred Americans, in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, fought here alongside their Spanish and international comrades-in-arms from 1937 through 1938. These men and women believed the defense of the Republic represented the last hope of stopping the spread of international fascism. Most of the volunteers were not political, but idealists who were determined to "make Madrid the tomb of fascism." English novelist, essayist, and critic, George Orwell was one of them.
Orwell was not just a writer, he was a partisan and he was a political idealist. A revolutionary Socialist, not a Communist, he was affiliated with the Independent Labor Party (I.L.P.). Orwell originally traveled to Spain in 1937 to observe and to write, but he almost immediately enlisted in the militia as a private.Read more ›
Homage to Catalonia may be the most important book I ever read. Important because it is the book that inspired me to become a journalist, a writer and a teacher. On the surface, this book is a reportage of the Spanish Civil War. It deals, of course, with the politics, some of the military strategy, and the deep social divisions of the period. More importantly, however, it is the story of how an idealistic, naive, but brilliant man discovered personal truths about war, politics and humanity. As a history of the Spanish Civil War, it is probably suspect. Orwell was isolated in Catalonia, affiliated with the POUM, a far-left revolutionary Marxist party led by Andres Nin [not Durutti who was, in fact, commander of the Anarchist CNT's militia], and a foreigner. He didn't see enough of the war to write its definitive history. However, that's not the task Orwell sets for himself. Rather, this is a chronicle of idealistic young men and women in dark times. It is a tale of the promise of revolution and its betrayal by power. Homage to Catalonia is a story of deep humanity about the dignity of man, home, and disillusionment. It is a great book.
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It's been said that George Orwell is every conservative's favorite liberal and every liberal's favorite conservative. This book likely did more to create that sentiment than any of Orwell's other works.
"Homage to Catalonia" is the story of Orwell's experience fighting in Spain, during 1936 and 1937, against Franco's forces that were seeking to overthrow the Spanish government. Orwell originally traveled to Spain simply to report on the war as a journalist, but falling in love with the people of Catalonia and their revolutionary, honestly egalitarian spirit, Orwell joined the Workers' Party of Marxist Unity (POUM) militia.
Once enlisted, Orwell traveled to the front lines of the fight in Catalonia. His observations of life on the front-line and the daily struggles for a soldier during war are at times funny, fascinating, and depressing. Remarking on war, especially the politics of war, Orwell writes, "I believe that on such an issue as this no one is or can be completely truthful;" yet Orwell seems supernaturally honest throughout this book.
After risking his life for the socialist cause he believed in, even being shot in the neck, Orwell eventually realized that many people he once assumed were fighting for the same anti-Fascist cause as he were really no different than the enemy he was fighting. The anti-Fascist soldiers were generally divided into Anarchists (who believed that a Marxist revolution should be the immediate goal) and Communists (who believed that the Fascists must be defeated first and the Marxist revolution addressed after that).Read more ›
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Ever wonder what it is like be shot right through the neck? Ever wonder what it is like to stare over open sights at an enemy soldier with his pants down (literally) relieving himself? Would you shoot? Ever wonder what it is like to fight with allies that may be as worse than the common enemy? Orwell experienced all of this and more as a member of one of the more obscure Spanish militias fighting for the Spanish Republic during the bloody internecine Spanish Civil War. He also became incredibly dissillusioned in the process. Finding his beliefs in revolutionary socialism, he was already jaded by communism and the cynical use it was put to serve Stalin's interests. He opted for a more loose organisation and therefore choose to enroll with the Anarcho-Syndicalists as a foreign volunteer in the Spanish Civil War. His particular group was called the POUMists (an acronym that I need not summarize here). Ill-equipped and with no training, they showed what raw idealism can do against Franco and his fascist oppression -- they stopped fascism cold on the battle field and were never found wanting in terms of courage. What did defeat them was the United Front launched by the Cominterm against International Fascism. For those that did not tow the line, Stalin's advisors and compadours inside the Spanish Communist Party sacrificed. Denied weapons, ammunition and food, the coalition --- made up a broad spectrum of liberal-democrats, progressives, socialists, communists, anarchists (and every shade between) --- were defeated in piece-meal battles. Orwell was shaped and scarred by the experience. Although always a social progressive, he realised that idealism in its most extreme forms could be as bad as the fascism one was fighting against.Read more ›
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