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Paracuellos: Children of the Defeated in…

Paracuellos: Children of the Defeated in Franco's Fascist Spain (1) (1981)

by Carlos Gimenez

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Paracuellos (1)

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English (2)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All (4)
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741.5946 G491p 2016
  ebr_mills | Mar 23, 2017 |
In February 1936, Spain elected a Republican government supported by parties on the left. In July of the same year, a military uprising of the right began led by General Francisco Franco and supported by the fascist governments of Germany and Italy. The Civil War lasted until 1939, ending with Franco’s victory. The death toll is estimated to have been approximately 500,000 not counting deaths from malnutrition, starvation and illnesses related to the war. Franco’s Nationalists would hold power until his death in 1975.

As a result of the war and the government’s totalitarian policies, many children were left orphaned or abandoned and were placed in Social Aid Homes. The aim of these homes was to produce ‘good’ citizens loyal to the state. Carlos Gimenez was one of those children. After Franco’s death in 1975, he began recording his memories of those days but in comic book form, an act of extreme bravery given the continued dangers of criticizing the Regime. The result is a powerful, occasionally humorous but extremely heart wrenching picture of what life was like in these homes. The children were starved, beaten, and served a daily dose of propaganda wrapped in religious platitudes by sadistic ‘carers’. The story is historically accurate as Gimenez refused to soften the account to make it more palatable. Eventually, he wrote and drew six volumes to tell his story; this is a review of Paracuellos Vol. 1.

This graphic novel is not meant only as an uplifting story of the human spirit transcending evil - the deprivations and abuses these children were forced to endure are heartbreaking made more so because they are told by a survivor. This is Gimenez’ honest telling of his own story and this honesty makes it at once painful to read but important to understand. Not all of the children or even many of them behave in heroic ways - many are bullies and snitches, willing to turn others in for the smallest infractions to gain the smallest of rewards. Yet, despite this, they still often act like children, inventing games and amusements and always holding out hope that their families will come to rescue them.

The use of the comic form to tell such a powerful true tale may seem counterintuitive. It doesn’t elicit ‘healing’ tears the way a prose telling might nor does it produce the kind of intellectually objective response that a straight relaying of history would. Rather it demands a more immediate visceral response about the horrors of life in a totalitarian state for its most vulnerable members as well as offering a warning about the dangers of ignoring the lessons of history.

The story does end on a surprisingly hopeful note. In a world where friendship is frowned on, and deprivation, violence and spying are constants,Gimenz shows how even seemingly small acts of defiance and bravery can have huge positive and lasting effect.

A very high recommendation from me. ( )
  lostinalibrary | Apr 2, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carlos Gimenezprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eisner, WillForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, SonyaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, AntonioIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moreno-Nuño, CarmenAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mullaney, DeanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Autobiographical account of the plight of the children of the defeated Republicans in Fascist Spain.

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