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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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4,187641,196 (4.07)214
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 (57)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
I am sure I will re-reread this hilarious book in the future. ( )
  StanleyPhang | Jun 29, 2016 |
A compelling book about the author's experiences in the Spanish Civil War, the main value of Homage to Catalonia is nevertheless as an insight into Orwell's beliefs and motivations. The war was not over when Orwell wrote and published this in 1938, and consequently many of his observations lack the necessary benefit of hindsight to become truly essential as a piece of history. The most readable parts of the book detail Orwell's impressions of the front lines – the trench warfare, the lice and what it was like to shoot and be shot at. His account of being shot in the throat by a Fascist sniper is very evocative; as he says with classic British understatement, "the whole experience of being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think it is worth describing in detail." (pg. 177). A dry humour is evident throughout, not least when describing the various incompetencies and inefficiencies of the makeshift Spanish militias. My favourite was the grenade design where the lever was held down by a piece of tape (pg. 36), but special mention should go to this glorious passage on pages 185-6, concerning the afore-mentioned bullet wound:

"The wound was a curiosity in a small way and various doctors examined it with much clicking of tongues and 'Que suerte! Que suerte!' One of them told me with an air of authority that the bullet had missed the artery by 'about a millimetre'. I don't know how he knew. No one I met at this time – doctors, nurses, practicantes, or fellow-patients – failed to assure me that a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive. I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all."

Orwell is also good at describing the infighting amongst the various political sects on the Republican side and how the revolutionary ideals were thus compromised. Orwell volunteered for the civil war in Spain as a socialist idealist, and saw in the first few months of that war an atmosphere when "'comrade' stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug." (pg. 102). He also saw the corruption of this revolutionary spirit as Stalinist-style communism began to tighten its grip over the Republic. It was this betrayal which was to have a dominant formative impact on Orwell, who retained his belief in democratic socialism but became aware of how it could be undermined so easily and willingly. There is much to be seen in Homage to Catalonia as a forerunner for the allegorical criticism of Stalinism in Animal Farm and the nature of the totalitarian regime in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The 1943 essay 'Looking Back on the Spanish War', included in my Penguin edition (as in most editions) at the end of Homage to Catalonia, is also instructive here. Not only does it serve as a update on the author's views of the war after it had actually ended (in defeat for the Republicans) and therefore as an essential coda to the main work, but it also shows how the war influenced Orwell's two celebrated novels. The ideas about how, depending on who writes the histories, 'the lie will have become truth' (pg. 235), about how, if the Leader says so, two and two is five (pg. 236), and about how the long-term enemy of totalitarianism is the working class (pg. 238), foreshadowing the 'if there is hope, it lies in the proles' line, would all be expanded on in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

But this is not a parlour game for literary critics hoping to trace Orwell's influences. The main quality of Orwell's work is its contemporary relevance. The reason he remains an essential read is that his ideas on dictatorship, totalitarianism, censorship, politics and the corruptibility of human nature are fundamentally sound. Even in Homage to Catalonia, ostensibly an account of the author's participation in a long-forgotten war, we not only have the clear germination of eternal ideas expressed in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four but, we can now see, other disquieting parallels to contemporary events. For example, when reading about how Russia was able to dictate terms to the Republicans because no other major power was willing to provide arms (pg. 53), I couldn't help but think about the ongoing Syrian civil war and how Western inaction has allowed Putin a free hand in the region. There really is nothing new under the sun. This is why Orwell matters; he discourages complacency in the democracies. When we fail to heed these warnings, it is our own damn fault; Orwell himself could scarcely do more. Political repression remains an ever-present threat, but in Orwell it has an evergreen opponent.
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Orwell's chronicle of the lessons he learned fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He enters thinking he is fighting the Fascists, he leaves disillusioned and branded as a traitor. A book that defines Orwell. Personal, brutally truthful and a book that strips away all the supposed romance of war. "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are simply not compatible with military efficiency." ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
This was the penultimate of Orwell’s ‘full sized’ books that I had left to read. It deals with the Spanish Civil War – a subject I knew very little about. I must admit that I had been putting this one off as I thought it might be a bit dry.

At the age of 33, Orwell headed to Spain, after getting the necessary paperwork from the British ILP (Independent Labour Party) to allow him access to the country under the guise of being their correspondent, and he enlisted in the POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist Unification) to be trained as a soldier. He discovers that the group are ill-equipped to go to war, many of them being just seventeen or eighteen years of age, and none of them having any decent equipment, but they are sent to the Aragón front where they stay for several months.

Orwell is frustrated by the lack of decent weapons, but somehow he survives (despite getting shot in the throat!) and is ultimately sent back to Barcelona where he gets caught up in a conflict over a Telephone Exchange (as unlikely as that seems!). His wife Eileen is in Spain with him during the war. Ultimately the Orwells, together with many other members of the POUM have to leave Spain in a hurry.

It’s not as dry as I expected it to be and I found it most enjoyable. I found Orwell’s writing this book as enjoyable as in others, although Down and Out in Paris and London remains my favourite of his non-fiction full-length books. In this one, a bit of Orwell’s human side comes out. At one point, his hotel room is raided by plain clothed policemen, searching for evidence of Orwell’s involvement with POUM, it having been declared an illegal organisation at the start of the conflict, and they remove all of Orwell’s paperwork. He laments its loss, and is largely concerned with the fact that they had taken letters he had yet to reply to. He writes “incidentally, they took a number of letters I had received from readers. Some of them have not been answered, and of course I have not the addresses. If anyone wrote to me about my last book, and who did not get an answer, happens to read these lines, will he please accept this as an apology?” – it is great to hear that Orwell cared enough to reply to his readers and was concerned that he hadn't done so.

One thing that amused me was his thoughts on Sagrada Família , the famous Catholic church in Barcelona. “...I went to have a look at the cathedral - a modern cathedral, and one of the most hideous buildings in the world...” LOL – this is on my ‘to do’ list – I really want to see it. Clearly Orwell wasn’t impressed! :lol:

The book contains two appendices – formerly chapters 5 and 11 – which concentrate on the politics of the war. Orwell urges the reader to “skip” these if they are not interested in the deep politics of the situation. I must admit to having skim read them! The rest of the book was really enjoyable though and it is with a little sadness that I look forward to my last full-length offering of his, Burmese Days, knowing it is the last for me apart from the essays.
( )
  Bagpuss | Jan 17, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Orwellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edwards, BobIntroductionsecondary authorsome 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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:11 -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 3 descriptions

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