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Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
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Homage to Catalonia (original 1938; edition 2011)

by George Orwell

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3,894501,319 (4.07)163
Member:circumspice
Title:Homage to Catalonia
Authors:George Orwell
Info:IndoEuropeanPublishing.com (2011), Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:read in 2012, Spanish civil war, spain, memoir, autobiography, socialism, anarchism, fascism, war, politics, history, radicalism

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Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (1938)

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English (46)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
A wonderful book full of the stink and horror of war. The accounts of the Republic's assaults on the Falange are, save for one instance, pitiful and sickening. Descriptions, too, of Madrid during the conflict the likes of which I have come across nowhere else. Exquisite and appalling. Read with Hugh Thomas's The Spanish Civil War. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2290831.html

I'm not sure that I'd read any of Orwell's non-fiction of any length before. It is a great personal account of taking up arms in an idealistic struggle, and finding that the grim realities are not especially glamorous, and that indeed the political leadership is more concerned with internal manœuvring for power on their own side than with actually, y'know, winning the war against Franco. Orwell is particularly bitter against the Communists, who were by his account instructed by Moscow to sell out genuine revolutionaries in order to safeguard the USSR's wider geopolitical position, and it's an important and vehement reminder that most of the Western Left, back in the day, were very hostile to the Soviets. His descriptions of the reality of fighting are vivid as well, both inching ground off the Franco forces in the mountains, and the internal fighting up and down the Ramblas (or more accurately between hotels and the Barcelona telephone exchange) when the other shoe finally dropped. It reminded me of accounts I have picked up from more recent conflicts in the Balkans and Cyprus - not from the peacekeepers but from primary combatants. There's a fascinating sub-plot about the use and abuse of information to shape the received narrative of what is going on during wartime, but that's not the primary focus here; Orwell addressed it pretty well in both Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. A great and short book, which everyone should read. ( )
  nwhyte | May 16, 2014 |
Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell's memoir of the time he spent fighting Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Because his letters of introduction, he couldn't join the International Brigades of the Communists, instead he joined up with the marxist-trotskyist Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, or POUM. Shipped up to the Aragon front at Huesca, Orwell quickly discovers the banalities of stalemate. Neither side did much of anything to the other, and the weapons on the Republican side were so bad as to be nearly useless. However, when he returns to Barcelona, he discovers that things are changing quickly and before he knows it, the workers' paradise becomes a deadly trap.

Originally published in 1938, the book was a general failure and not even published in the United States, mostly because of a general boycott by the very leftists you would expect to pick up an anti-fascist memoir in droves. Why? Because Orwell told the truth. In a series of events which inspired many aspects of Animal Farm, the Communists turned on the anarchists and other socialists groups fighting on the Republican side and liquidated them (i.e. imprisoned and shot them). The idea that the Communists would be against the revolution was completely rejected by those outside of Spain, and it was not until being reissued in 1951 that the book found its audience.

I read a general history of the Spanish Civil War last year, and had a basic sense of geography and timeline, but didn't remember much. It's not particularly important, as Homage to Catalonia is much more about Orwell's experiences than the war, although there are chapters where he gives the political basis for the events occurring around him. If you've ever wondered what made Orwell into a man who was at the same time both a dedicated Socialist and an ardent anti-Communist, this is the book for you. It also does a good job of showing the everyday realities of the conflict on the civilian population of Catalonia as well as militia on the front. It's a very interesting read and highly recommended. ( )
1 vote inge87 | Aug 25, 2013 |
Others have noted that lessons Orwell gleaned from his experiences in Spain fighting Franco in 1937 are applicable in areas of military conflict today. I found the explication of the various political factions allied against Franco confusing, but Orwell's first-person account of his experiences in the street-fighting in Barcelona and at the front near Huesca are strong. The powerfully ironic and foreshadowing final passage of the book is worth getting to. This book was recommended by a friend of mine for anyone planning a visit to Barcelona. I did not actually read the Kindle edition. I read the Harvest paperback available through my local public library consortium :-) ( )
  jpe9 | Aug 7, 2013 |
Orwell's account of his experience fighting for the Anarchist group POUM during the Spanish Civil War is surprisingly compelling. This is mostly due to the understated way in which he narrates the book. To be sure, he is recounting extraordinary events, but in a voice so modest and casual that you can't help but be seduced. His political analysis and truth-seeking are refreshing, and in the midst of several acrimonious factions he appears uniquely able to maintain objectivity.

Overall, he writes with such sincerity and earnestness -- freely admitting when he can't hope to adequately express the emotional impact of a certain situation, or warning you of his potential bias -- that I would bet against being able to find another work of literature that more realistically conveys the insanity of war. The fact that Orwell is an Everyman -- idealistic, afraid, and by no means a born soldier -- only heightens the impact. His modesty is inspiring in that you can easily imagine yourself in his shoes.

When it was written, this book formed part of a growing contingent of anti-Stalinist literature. For that reason and the political circumstance of WWII (in which Russia was badly needed as an ally), the book was suppressed and/or ignored by most of the Western world. Decades later, after it has gained in popularity, we can see that Orwell's was one of the few voices of reason during that era. As a book, Homage is a greatly entertaining read. As an artifact of pre-WWII Europe, it is priceless. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Orwellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Folch i Camarasa, RamonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansson, IngemarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monicelli, GiorgioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trilling, LionelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Proverbs XXVI, 5-6
Dedication
First words
In the Lenin Barracks in Barcelona, the day before I joined the militia, I saw an Italian militiaman standing in front of the officers' table.
Quotations
...beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact and the distortion inveitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events.
In war, all soldiers are lousy, at least when it is warm enough.  
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156421178, Paperback)

"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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:44 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

George Orwell's account of his experience as a militiaman in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The book describes the chaos at the Front, the futile young deaths for what became a confused cause, the antique weapons and the disappointment many British Socialists felt on arriving in Spain to help.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Editions: 0141183055, 0141393025

 

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