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4/5 (51 notas)
314 páginas
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22 de out. de 1969


A National Review Top Ten Best Nonfiction Books of the Century. “One of Orwell’s very best books and perhaps the best book that exists on the Spanish Civil War.” ??—?? The New Yorker

In 1936, originally intending merely to report on the Spanish Civil War as a journalist, George Orwell found himself embroiled as a participant??—??as a member of the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unity. Fighting against the Fascists, he described in painfully vivid and occasionally comic detail life in the trenches??—??with a “democratic army” composed of men with no ranks, no titles, and often no weapons??—??and his near fatal wounding. As the politics became tangled, Orwell was pulled into a heartbreaking conflict between his own personal ideals and the complicated realities of political power struggles.

Considered one of the finest works by a man V. S. Pritchett called “the wintry conscience of a generation,” Homage to Catalonia is both Orwell’s memoir of his experiences at the front and his tribute to those who died in what he called a fight for common decency.

This edition features a new foreword by Adam Hochschild placing the war in greater context and discussing the evolution of Orwell’s views on the Spanish Civil War.

“No one except George Orwell . . . made the violence and self-dramatization of Spain so burning and terrible.” ??—?? Alfred Kazin, New York Times

“A wise book, one that once read will never be forgotten.” ??—?? Chicago Sunday Tribune
22 de out. de 1969

Sobre o autor

Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950), known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is characterised by lucid prose, biting social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism.***Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950), mais conhecido pelo pseudônimo George Orwell, foi um escritor, jornalista e ensaísta político inglês, nascido na Índia Britânica. Sua obra é marcada por uma inteligência perspicaz e bem-humorada, uma consciência profunda das injustiças sociais, uma intensa oposição ao totalitarismo e uma paixão pela clareza da escrita.

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Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell


First Mariner Books edition 2015

Copyright © 1952 by Sonia Brownell Orwell

Copyright renewed © 1980 by Sonia Brownell Orwell

Introduction copyright © 1952 by Lionel Trilling

Introduction copyright renewed © 1980 by Diana Trilling and James Trilling

Foreword copyright © 2015 by Adam Hochschild

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to trade.permissions@hmhco.com or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

ISBN 978-0-544-38204-6 (pbk.)

eISBN 978-0-547-41617-5


An earlier version of the foreword first appeared as an article in the New York Review of Books


For any idealist who dreamed of forging a more democratic and equitable world, the late 1930s were a grim time. Not only had Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini established dictatorships in Germany and Italy, but in half a dozen other countries, from Portugal to Lithuania, Hungary to Greece, régimes of the far right had risen to power, some of them, like the Nazis, making dark threats against Jews. Even in England, the British Union of Fascists boasted fifty thousand members; wearing black tunics, black trousers, and wide black leather belts, they paraded through Jewish neighborhoods of London under a flag with a lightning bolt, shouting insults, giving the straight-arm salute, and beating up anyone in their way. As the French writer André Malraux put it, Fascism has spread its great black wings over Europe.

Nowhere did those wings seem to spread more ominously than over Spain. After centuries of monarchy, it had recently become a republic, Europe’s newest democracy. Then, in early 1936, Spanish voters had elected a coalition of liberal and leftist parties, which promised reforms that would begin to rectify the country’s vast imbalance of wealth between industrialists and workers, and between the small number of large landowners and the great mass of miserably poor, often illiterate peasants. Months of unrest followed the election, and then, in July, right-wing army officers made a brutal grab for power, igniting civil war.

In the first weeks of fighting, the plotters and their troops occupied roughly a third of Spain. The dominant figure among them quickly became a young general, Francisco Franco—ambitious, puritanical, devoutly Catholic, and possessed by a fierce belief that he was destined to save Spain from a deadly conspiracy of Bolsheviks, Freemasons, and Jews. He spoke of Germany as a model which we will always keep before us and kept a photo of Hitler on his desk. It is necessary to spread terror, declared another general, Emilio Mola. We have to create the impression of mastery [by] eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not think as we do.

And eliminated they were, with a violence far greater than anything seen when Hitler or Mussolini had first seized power. As Franco’s armies advanced through Spain, it was with a ferocity that Europeans had assumed their right in colonial wars but that had seldom been unleashed in Europe itself since the Inquisition. Trade union leaders and Spanish Republic officials, including forty parliamentary deputies from the governing coalition, were bayoneted or shot on sight. Torture was routine. Killings mounted into the tens of thousands, some carried out with the garrote, the medieval instrument with which the executioner slowly tightens a metal band around the victim’s neck.

As with many fundamentalist movements, women became the object of particular savagery. Many who had been union members or supporters of the Republic were branded on their breasts with the military rebels’ symbol, also drawn from medieval times, of yoke and arrows: the yoke of an all-powerful kingdom, and the arrows for shooting down heretics. Others were gang-raped by entire platoons of Franco’s soldiers—something that officers actually boasted about to foreign reporters covering the war. Still others, in a practice borrowed from Italian Fascists, were forced to drink castor oil, a powerful laxative, and then to parade through the streets, being jeered as they soiled themselves.

As such news spread, tens of thousands of coup supporters on the Republican side, including many clergy, were massacred in revenge. Anticlericalism, demands for regional autonomy, and animosity between Spain’s rich and poor that had all been building for centuries boiled over, and for the first time since 1918 a Western European country was at war.

As the Republic fought back against the attempted coup, it faced great odds: most regular army officers had joined Franco, and quickly Hitler and Mussolini began supplying his forces with airplanes, tanks, and other weapons, and, from Italy, whole divisions of infantrymen. Against these forces the Republic mustered a smaller number of loyal officers and soldiers, and, trained hastily or not at all, badly armed militias organized by trade unions or left-wing political parties. Desperately short of rifles, artillery, tanks, and warplanes, it tried to buy these weapons overseas. But Britain, France, and the United States were, in varying degrees, leery of the Republic’s left-leaning government, and all of them were loath to fuel a war that might spread to engulf the continent. They declared that they would not sell arms to either side in Spain and pressured many smaller countries to follow their lead.

Ironically, the only major nation that finally did start selling arms to the Spanish Republic was not another democracy: it was the Soviet Union, just then beginning at home an enormous bloodletting known as the Great Purge, in which Joseph Stalin was sending millions of his opponents, real or imagined, to the firing squad or the gulag. In return for providing arms, pilots, and military experts, he demanded high positions for Spanish Communists and Soviet advisers in the Republic’s army and security services. He also instructed Communist parties around the world to begin recruiting foreign volunteers to fight in Spain. Eventually more than thirty-five thousand men came, from some fifty countries. In late 1936, the International Brigades, as they were called, played a dramatic, crucial role in preventing Franco from taking Spain’s capital, Madrid.

The Spanish Civil War captured the world’s attention like virtually no other event of its time. During the nearly three years it lasted, the New York Times had correspondents on both sides and ran more than a thousand front-page headlines about the conflict—more than on any other single topic, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the rise of Nazi Germany, or the calamitous toll of the Great Depression. In the Republic’s battle for survival against an army backed by Hitler and Mussolini, millions of people across the globe sensed that they were seeing something that presaged another world war. Hundreds of thousands contributed money for food and medical relief for the Republic—and many wanted to do more.

Besides the International Brigades, several thousand additional foreigners came to Republican Spain, both to volunteer as soldiers and for other work. These were men and women who were not Communist Party members, but supporters of other groups on the left. And they came not just to fight against fascism, but for another reason as well. Throughout the northeastern part of the country, particularly in Catalonia and neighboring Aragón, after the popular militias had swiftly defeated Franco’s attempted coup, there spontaneously erupted the most far-reaching social revolution ever seen in Western Europe. Peasants occupied dozens of large estates; waiters were running restaurants and trolley drivers the transport systems. Workers took over factories, including Ford and General Motors plants. In Barcelona, the anarchist trade union federation occupied the Chamber of Commerce building and began using stock certificates as scratch paper. The city’s garbage trucks sported anarchist slogans. Some villages abolished money and issued coupons, with more coupons going to families with more children. Exhilaratingly, this was a revolution that came not, as in Stalin’s Russia, from the top down, but, as many radicals had long dreamed of, from the bottom up.

The upheaval’s epicenter was Spain’s second-largest city, Barcelona. A few days after Christmas of 1936, one foreign volunteer, a young American economist named Charles Orr, was working in the office of the POUM—Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, or Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification—a group with its own militia at the front. A little militiaman, in his blue coveralls and red scarf, trudged up the stairs to my office on the fourth floor, Orr remembered later. "The lifts, as usual, bore the familiar sign NO FUNCTIONA . . .

"There was an Englishman, he reported to me, who spoke neither Catalan nor Spanish . . . I went down to see who this Englishman was and what his business might be.

"There I met him—Eric Blair—tall, lanky and tired, having just that hour arrived from London . . .

Exhausted, but excited, after a day and a night on the train, he had come to fight fascism . . . At first, I did not take this English volunteer very seriously. Just one more foreigner come to help . . . apparently a political innocent. The newcomer spoke of a book he had written, about living as a tramp in England and washing dishes in Paris restaurants. But Orr had not heard of it, nor of the several novels by this gawky, stammering adventurer.

To us he was just Eric . . . one of a small band of foreigners, mostly British, fighting on the Aragón Front. This was where Blair would be sent, west of Barcelona, when he promptly joined the militia of the POUM, which was something of a sister party to the group he felt closest to in Britain, the Independent Labour Party. He was tongue-tied, stammered and seemed to be afraid of people, Orr wrote. But however inhibited the newcomer was in conversation, he was anything but that in print, where he wrote under the name George Orwell.

Like Orr, few people anywhere had then heard of the thirty-three-year-old author, who had been supporting himself largely as a part-time bookstore clerk and by running a tiny grocery shop out of his home. (He put grocer as his occupation when he applied to join the POUM militia.) He had finished the book that would first bring him wide notice, The Road to Wigan Pier, a close-up look at poverty in the industrial north of England, but it had not yet been published.

Like other foreigners whom he crossed paths with in Barcelona—one, for example, was twenty-three-year-old Willy Brandt, who three decades later would become chancellor of West Germany—Orwell quickly found himself under the spell of the revolutionary city:

Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said ‘Señor’ or ‘Don’ or even ‘Usted’; everyone called everyone else ‘Comrade’ and ‘Thou’ . . . Almost my first experience was receiving a lecture from an hotel manager for trying to tip a lift-boy . . . The revolutionary posters were everywhere, flaming from the walls in clean reds and blues that made the few remaining advertisements look like daubs of mud . . . Practically everyone wore rough working-class clothes, or blue overalls or some variant of the militia uniform. All this was queer and moving. There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.

Within a week, Orwell was on his way to the front. A photograph of his militia column shows him a head taller and some fifteen years older than the Spanish teenagers he is surrounded by. The book he would write about the following six months, Homage to Catalonia, is the one in which for the first time he fully found his voice. In 1940 he would refer to it as his best book, and for many of us that judgment still holds, although two of the novels he wrote subsequently, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, would be more famous.

Orwell was always an acute, deeply thoughtful observer of everything he saw—even when, as would be the case in Spain, it didn’t fit the script he had expected. Indeed, part of the moral drama of this book lies in the way we can see him find the politics around him far more complicated than the black-and-white picture in his mind at the start. After more than three quarters of a century this quality still makes his account a lasting piece of literature. And we now know more about an eerie backstory to his experiences in Spain that Orwell only dimly sensed, and about the odd way his explicit instructions for revising the book were, for decades after his death, ignored.

In Spain, Orwell never stopped examining everything that happened to him. Who can forget his description of exactly what it feels like to be hit by a bullet? ("It was the sensation of being at the centre of an explosion.") Yet part of what makes Homage to Catalonia one of the great nonfiction books of its age is that he managed to write in the first person without ever sounding self-centered. You can look at almost any page and see how deftly he amasses rich, sensual detail, but always in the service of a larger point. For example, after that sniper’s shot almost severed his carotid artery, he was put on a hospital train to the rear. As it pulled into one station, a troop train filled with Italian volunteers from the International Brigades was pulling out for the front, packed to the bursting-point with men, with field-guns lashed on the open trucks and more men clustering round the guns.

I remember with particular vividness the spectacle of that train passing in the yellow evening light; window after window full of dark, smiling faces, the long tilted barrels of the guns, the scarlet scarves fluttering—all this gliding slowly past us against a turquoise-coloured sea.

. . . The men who were well enough to stand had moved across the carriage to cheer the Italians as they went past. A crutch waved out of the window; bandaged forearms made the Red Salute. It was like an allegorical picture of war; the trainload of fresh men gliding proudly up the line, the maimed men sliding slowly down, and all the while the guns on the open trucks making one’s heart leap as guns always do, and reviving that pernicious feeling, so difficult to get rid of, that war is glorious after all.

But within the Spanish Civil War was another civil war. An odd-bedfellows alliance of the Republic’s mainstream parties and Communists was eager to crush the social revolution. One of their reasons was understandable: they feared that Britain, France, and the United States would never sell arms to a Republican Spain perceived as revolutionary. (As it would turn out, except for very small amounts from France, these countries would refuse to sell Spain arms even after the revolution had been snuffed out.) But another factor was the long arm of the Soviet Union’s Great Purge. In Stalin’s eyes, any dissenters from the world Communist movement were traitors. He was far less angry at the driving force behind the revolution, Spain’s powerful anarchist movement, which came from a different political tradition, than he was at the anarchists’ allies, the much smaller POUM. Several POUM leaders were former Communists, one of whom had lived in the Soviet Union and known Stalin, who had broken publicly with the USSR and denounced the Great Purge. To Stalin, this was unforgivable heresy.

Orwell first became aware of the intensity of these conflicts when, after the several months at the front described so vividly in his early chapters, in late April 1937 he returned to Barcelona on leave. He was also hoping to use his time there to transfer to the International Brigades: despite their being controlled by the Communists, whom he distrusted, they were defending Madrid, where the important battles of the war were taking place, in contrast to the relatively sleepy Aragón front where the POUM militia was stationed. But within a few days of arriving in Barcelona, he was unexpectedly caught up in a deadly outburst of street fighting between the Communist-dominated police on one side and the POUM and its anarchist allies on the other. Although Orwell himself was unharmed, several hundred people were killed. Deeply distressed, he returned to the front line. Some weeks later, after he was wounded, hospitalized, and discharged from the militia, his voice was still hoarse from the bullet that had passed through his neck, grazing his throat; it sounded, his commanding officer wrote, like the grinding brakes of an old Model T Ford. Orwell then made his way back to Barcelona again, to meet his wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy Blair, who had for several months been working in the POUM office, and to head home with her to England to recuperate.

It was then that he discovered, to his horror, as she frantically hustled him out of the hotel where he found her, that the POUM and its newspaper had been banned and many of its supporters thrown in jail. He stayed out of sight for several days—once on the street meeting Willy Brandt, who was also lying low—while he and Eileen arranged to slip out of the country before they, too, could be arrested. She told him how, several days before, six plainclothes police had burst into her hotel room and taken all the couple’s letters, books, and documents, including the extensive notes and diaries Orwell had sent her, and she had typed up, from his first four months at the front. (He was always writing, remembered an Irish fellow soldier. In the daytime he used to sit outside the dugout writing, and in the evenings he used to write by candlelight.) This must have been a particularly painful loss. Yet, even in describing the theft of his own writing, Orwell was alert to a curious human detail:

They sounded the walls, took up the mats, examined the floor, felt the curtains, probed under the bath and the radiator, emptied every drawer and suitcase and felt every garment and held it up to the light . . . In one drawer there was a number of packets of cigarette papers. They picked each packet to pieces and examined each paper separately, in case there should be messages written on them. Altogether they were on the job for nearly two hours. Yet all this time they never searched the bed. My wife was lying in bed all the while; obviously there might have been half a dozen sub-machine-guns under the mattress, not to mention a library of Trotskyist documents under the pillow. Yet the detectives made no move to touch the bed, never even looked underneath it . . . The police were almost entirely under Communist control, and these men were probably Communist Party members themselves. But they were also Spaniards, and to turn a woman out of bed was a little too much for them.

During these last two brief visits to Barcelona, Orwell wrote, you seemed to spend all your time holding whispered conversations in corners of cafés and wondering whether that person at the next table was a police spy.

Sometimes he was a spy, and today we can read Homage side by side with these agents’ reports. For more than half a century, all such records were tightly locked up, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union some have become accessible, and they make fascinating reading.

Certain documents, including most of the papers removed from Eileen Blair’s hotel room, are believed to remain in closed files in Moscow. But among what we can now see is a two-page inventory of what the police took that day. This includes such items as correspondence exchanged between Eileen and Eric BLAIR, correspondence of G. ORWELL (alias Eric BLAIR) concerning his book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier,’ and checkbook for the months of October and Nov 1936. There were also letters to and from a long list of people and various papers with drawings and doodles.

Some reports, as well as a translation of one letter to Eileen whose English original has disappeared, are in German. This was evidently the work of Germans involved in running Soviet espionage in Barcelona. We know of one German Communist agent in the city, Hubert von Ranke, because he subsequently had a change of heart: before the end of 1937 he would leave Spain, leave the Party, and declare that the people he had spied on and interrogated were not ‘agents of Franco’ but honest revolutionaries. Someone else may have been reporting to André Marty, the much-disliked French Communist chief organizer of the International Brigades, for the list of materials confiscated from Eileen is in French.

A British Communist, Walter Tapsell, meanwhile was reporting to London, writing to Party superiors there that Orwell/Blair was the most respected man in the contingent of Britons fighting with the POUM militia, but that he has little political understanding. Another member of this farrago of agents was Hugh O’Donnell, the British Communist Party representative in Spain. The Blairs knew him, but what they almost certainly did not know was his code name, O’Brien—which, by an uncanny coincidence, Orwell was to give to the sinister villain of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In Homage, Orwell wrote, You had all the while a hateful feeling that someone hitherto your friend might be denouncing you to the secret police. This was even more true than he knew. David Crook, for example, another British Communist, posed as a POUM sympathizer, but meanwhile was reporting everything to his Soviet handlers, including his suspicions that Eileen Blair was having an extramarital affair—information potentially useful for blackmail. Crook claims in his memoirs that during the long Spanish lunch-and-siesta, he used to slip into the office used by Eileen and the handful of other Britons and Americans working in the POUM building, purloin documents, and quickly photograph them at a Soviet safe house. By design Crook was even briefly jailed during the crackdown on the POUM, so he could report on POUM prisoners and offer to help smuggle their letters out. He would die at ninety in the year 2000, having lived his last five decades in China, his faith largely unshaken despite five years’ imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution.

At the time, the international press either ignored Spain’s war-within-the-war or repeated the Communist line, which was that the POUM had been fatally infiltrated by Franco’s agents. Even the New York Times published this canard, describing a vast conspiracy engineered by subversive elements in the POUM who secretly radioed information about troop movements and the like to Fascist generals and sent an invisible-ink message to Franco himself written on the back of a map. Whatever the shortcomings of the POUM—among them, Orwell felt, this small sect suffered from revolutionary purism—such charges were preposterous. Orwell would shortly be accused, in the London Daily Worker, of periodically leaving the POUM trenches to make what appeared to be secret rendezvous with Franco’s troops. He was already well aware of the propaganda battles of his time, but the blatant lies now being told about the war in which he had nearly died had a profound impact on him, and would be reflected more than a decade later in his excoriating picture, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, of the Ministry of Truth.

Almost all journalists who try to explain a complex conflict in a foreign country assume an air of authority. Even if just arrived in a new war zone the day before, an opinion columnist will never say he or she is unsure what the causes of violence are and what should be done about them. By contrast, one of the more subtle virtues of Homage is its humility. It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, Orwell writes in one of several such cautionary notes. . . . Beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact, and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events. Orwell began writing the book immediately after the experiences he described in it, and it was published in 1938, less than a year after he had left Spain and while the war was still raging. But he never forgot that he had seen only one corner of events, and as time passed, to his enormous credit, on some points he was not afraid to change his mind.

In Homage, for example, he blames the Republic’s military defeats on its internal conflicts and the suppression of the social revolution he had so admired in Barcelona. He declares that if the government had appealed to the workers of the world in the name not of ‘democratic Spain’ but of ‘revolutionary Spain,’ it is hard to believe that they would not have got a response—in the form of strikes and boycotts by millions of workers in other countries. For Orwell, however, this was a rare moment of wildly wishful thinking. Most workers of the world had long since shown themselves not to be the revolutionary internationalists that radical intellectuals hoped for—something most notably demonstrated by their willingness to slaughter each other in huge numbers in the First World War.

But by the time he published a long essay, Looking Back on the Spanish War, in 1943, six years after he had left Spain and four after Franco’s troops had won the war, Orwell had come to feel that disunity on the Government side was not a main cause of defeat. Instead he believed, as do many historians today, that the outcome of the Spanish War was settled in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin. Rome and Berlin, of course, had supplied Franco with a flood of troops, aviators, advisers, and weapons, like the latest models of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter plane and Stuka dive bomber, each of which had its combat debut in Spain. And not just London and Paris, but Washington as well, had refused to sell arms to the democratically elected government of the Republic. The Trotskyist thesis that the war could have been won if the revolution had not been sabotaged was probably false, he wrote in his 1943 essay—somewhat misleadingly, for this belief was not limited to Trotskyists; it was exactly what Orwell himself had said in Homage. But he was completely right when he continued: The Fascists won because they were the stronger; they had modern arms and the others hadn’t. And in the scope of the larger struggle against fascism, he told a friend, the suppression of the POUM, however unjust, was something that had had far too much fuss made about it.

Because these thoughts reflected a somewhat different view of the war than the one he had taken in Homage, Orwell wanted changes in the next printing, first outlining them in 1946, six years after he had published the book. Before he died, several years later, he typed out corrections and marked up a copy. Most important, he asked that two long chapters, comprising roughly a quarter of the text and dealing with the factions on the Republican side and claims and counterclaims about the Barcelona street fighting, be relegated to appendices—a rearrangement that did not unsay anything he had written, but that significantly altered the book’s political emphasis.

Most of these changes were made when Homage appeared in French several years later—Orwell had also been corresponding with his French translator. But surprisingly his British publisher ignored his wishes and the marked-up copy, and it is not clear if his American publisher even knew about them. An edition in the form Orwell wanted did not appear in Britain until thirty-six years after his death. This is the first time one has been published in the United States.

Barcelona today is a very different city from the revolutionary one full of armed militia, defiant songs, and workers in blue

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  • (2/5)
    Getuigenis van eigen deelname aan de Spaanse burgeroorlog periode 1936-1937; nogal onbevangen en daardoor heel waardevol; geleidelijk inzicht in de nefaste tweestrijd communisten-anarchisten. Vooral documentair interessant
  • (5/5)
    I first read Homage to Catalonia in college,more than forty years ago. It was a seminal book for me and lead me to read everything by Orwell I could find. When my book club decided to read this, I was overjoyed but a little worried that it would not live up to my memory of it. In fact, it is better than I remembered. As a college student, I plowed uncomprehending through the chapters on the politics of the Loyalists, but this time around I found them fascinating. I had also forgotten how well Orwell depicts the boredom and the perils of warfare at the front. And then there is his affectionate depictions of the Spaniards and foreigners with whom he fought.
  • (2/5)
    Getuigenis van eigen deelname aan de Spaanse burgeroorlog periode 1936-1937; nogal onbevangen en daardoor heel waardevol; geleidelijk inzicht in de nefaste tweestrijd communisten-anarchisten. Vooral documentair interessant
  • (4/5)
    This classic piece of Orwellian journalism documents his experience fighting in the Spanish Civil War in his typically witty and sardonic style. From being shot in the throat to evading capture from enemy troops Orwell questions what it means to fight for a political cause and explores the complexities surrounding the political allegiances of both sides.
  • (4/5)
    Another gap year for George: intensity of comradeship in the volunteer militias of the Spanish Civil War, satisfying despite the shambles of the fighting itself. Street fighting in Barcelona was so commonplace in that era, we're told, that they ought to have numbered the paving stones to aid the putting up and taking down of barricades. Orwell hones his plain writing, truth-telling style, and throws in some of his choice punchy observations: "Nothing will convince a Spaniard, at least a young Spaniard, that fire-arms are dangerous." The episode was genuinely transformative for Orwell's politics, as the determinedly classless society he found in the Barcelona of mid-late 1936 ("where the working class was in the saddle") added the force of lived experience, and a touch of sentiment, romance almost, to his socialism.
  • (5/5)
    I received this book as a gift at around the same time as I had started Hemingway's "The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War". I must say I was impressed by Orwell's (or should I say Blair's) writing style as it seemed very distant from 1984. I found it difficult to put Homage down despite being very busy with work and other pressing issues. Nevertheless, I intend to explore the rest of Orwell's work. It is a real shame that he died at such a young age. One can only wonder whether such genius had more to offer or otherwise simply ran out of steam. Regardless, I am rather grateful for being gifted such an important work.
  • (5/5)
    Orwell's memoir of his service fighting in leftist militia in the Spanish Civil War. "A comic opera with an occasional death." Dangers of extremist politics. Great story telling. It's all here.
  • (4/5)
    George Orwell's experiences during Spanish civil war as part of the POUM political party in the government side. The book starts when he just arrives to Spain, with much excitement, and gets to closure when he has to leave the country after POUM being declared illegal. The focus of the story is the on fights in Barcelona between different government factions (comunists and anarchists). The text is full of interesting observations made by Orwell about Spanihs culture and people, and about how those days in Barcelona took an important rool on the final outcome of war. Totally must read for those who want to be introduced to this part of Spanish recent history.
  • (3/5)
    This is probably my least favorite George Orwell book, but it's not a bad book, but it has lost its relevance. Seventy some years later, the details of the Spanish Civil War don't have much interest for a modern reader.
  • (4/5)
    I admire Orwell's journalism and his approach to getting the real story; Homage to Catalonia is a perfect example. I found the story of the trenches and the Barcelona uprising fairly interesting and well-written. His political analysis is extremely complex and gets bogged down in details and acronyms that aren't entirely relevant to today's reader's understanding of the situation. That said, I did find his views on how journalism and the global media forces influenced the war to be insightful and very relevant. Media has changed quite a bit-- not for the better in many cases. This books makes for interesting fodder to compare and contrast and pros and cons of different forms of media and regulatory models. HtC is an important book and worthy of study, but not an enjoyable read in my opinion. 3.5 stars.
  • (5/5)
    Holy crud!! George Orwell was shot in the neck just missing his windpipe in the Spanish Civil War. Imagine... this happened BEFORE he wrote '1984'!! What if the world did not have '1984'?!?! It is an essential piece in literature and I'm sure the entire world would be just like his cautionary book if he had never written it.Anyway, I don't think I ever heard about the Spanish Civil War in school (no surprise there). This was a very interesting and readable account of it though. The only thing is, I wish there were more explanatory foot notes!! Orwell really wants to get the truth out on certain events that happened in Spain. He really doesn't pick a side (other than anti-fascist) until one faction within the anti-fascist side is used as a scapegoat. All of this is just so new to me... in school I was taught the same basic things every year (ie: 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue) hence making history very boring for me in school. So it is really interesting when I read books about historical events that I didn't know about. This one is just so readable and interesting (and he even finds the humor in such horrible situations!) Reading it is like sitting down with a veteran and hearing the words right from Orwell himself. He is also a huge book lover -- he was laying in the trenches close to the enemy at one point and reading a book... while both sides are shooting at each other. I wish George Orwell was involved in all the major wars so he could have written a book for each war. Just as long as I was guaranteed that he would be alive to eventually write '1984'!!!
  • (4/5)
    Orwell's recounting of his days as a soldier with the Spanish fighting against Franco, on the one hand, and even a bit against the Communists, on the other.
  • (4/5)
    When I was about fourteen or fifteen I did a holiday homework history project on the Spanish Civil War. It made a big impression on me. On the first day back at school I sought out the other boy who had done his project on the same subject. Patrick Drumgoole. Now that’s name I haven’t thought of in a very long time. Full of the injustice of it all I ranted about the way the Spanish government had been left to the slavering Italian and German wolves by the lily livered democratic soon-to-be-allies, only to find he was delighted at the way the dangerous left wing anarcho-commies had been defeated by the Catholic forces of (the) right. It was the first time I had ever really encountered a political debate. If you can call telling Patrick Drumgoole he was a f**king t**t a political debate. George Orwell’s experience of the Spanish Civil War, as recounted in Homage To Catalonia, seemed to have made a similarly big impression on him, albeit his was a lot more ‘first hand’ than mine in that he was actually there, being shot at whilst I was at home, er, not being shot at. Patrick Drumgoole wasn’t even a particularly big bloke. His story is of the ‘War is Boring, Cold, Hungry, Dirty and Irritating’ kind, rather than the ‘War Is Hell’ kind. Even when recounting going over the top or actually being shot he doesn’t make it sound actually frightening. In fact the time spent behind the lines, on leave, in Barcelona where political in-fighting between the anarchists and communists led to a civil war within a civil war and a virtual police state sounded a lot more frightening. Which could explain a lot about his later fiction.
  • (4/5)
    I love history, but I tend to shyaway from war narratives; I getlost in the details about weaponsand strategies. Homage to Cataloniais a different kind of war narrative,the story of a man who never glamorizedwar (except, perhaps, when he enlisted).I loved the chapters about day-to-daylife. I can just see the generals andadmirals telling Orwell, "Don't tell themthat!" I found myself wanting to postchapters to young American men I know servingin Iraq and asking if Orwell's experiencesin the Spanish Civil War rang true for them.Recommended.
  • (5/5)

    9/10. eBook.

    An account of Orwell's time spent in the anarchist militia during the Spanish Civil war. From his experiences in the front-line with the rag tag troops to being under attack by the communist goverment while in Barcelona intermingled with an explanation of the wider political forces involved in the conflict. Funny and informative, it's a very casual look at a little discussed war.

  • (4/5)
    One of the guys on my course lent this to me: it's an autobiographical account of the author's experiences fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Very easy to read, despite not knowing much about the period in question; he kindly separates the political analysis from the rest of the books and asks you to feel free to skip those chapters. I believe that in later editions these two chapters are moved to the end to be appendices, but I read them where they were originally placed. These parts took me much longer to get through due to the vast number of acronyms, but were interesting nonetheless.I thought he got across very well the way that events differed from their official versions, the general dullness of most parts of war, the problems of organisation and administration and so on, although he says at several points that he doesn't think he's doing it justice. It was interesting to me that the book ends before the war does; I looked up some more about it online afterwards.
  • (5/5)
    The best and most honest firsthand account of the consequences of war and political treachery on common people that I've found.
  • (4/5)
    In this novel Orwell achieves an aesthetic rarely matched in even the most vivid fiction. His dry humor and honesty dances right on beat with his romanticism of radical politics.(a romance I share myself.) Staged in the critical years of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell doesn't merely write of the events of the day, he fully participated in them. A remarkably inspiring piece of literature.
  • (3/5)
    While in broad terms I sympasthize with Orwell's hostility to the Stalinists within the Spanish Popular Front, I must confess that on reading this I felt they showed more pragmatic willingness to compromise than the anarchists Orwell admired.
  • (4/5)
    I've never fully understood how the Spanish Civil War came about, or really who could be said to have won it. I've read Hemingway's 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' and there are allusions to the period in some of the other novels I've read, but Orwell's account comes closest to filling in the gaps.I most enjoyed the portions of the book that told about Orwell's own memories and experiences of the war. His writing is accessible and dramatic, and he paints a vivid picture of what he thought was going on around him. Although I appreciated his political discourses, I found that they were not terribly helpful, though this should be no surprise - the Spanish Civil War was very possibly the most confusing conflict of the 20th century.
  • (4/5)
    This is the book that caused Orwell to be reviled by The Left -- by the intelligentsia that wanted to forgive the communists their little excesses, their little purges.
  • (4/5)
    Orwell was an excellent journalist, lucid writer and determined truth-seeker as this book about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War attests.
  • (3/5)
    Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell is good enough that I'm glad I read it but not so good that I'd recommend it to friends who don't have a specific interest in Orwell's life. In 1936, a young Orwell went to Barcelona to report on the Spanish Civil War. Within a few days of arriving, he'd joined a socialist militia and went to the front. I enjoyed the clipped, stiff-upper-lip writing style that had few superfluous words and I learned a bit about a historical event I hadn't heard much about before. Orwell's experiences dodging rats in the trenches and his near-arrest by the corrupted leadership of the movement he'd once supported no doubt informed later works like 1984 and Animal Farm, and I liked seeing what helped shaped one of this century's most famous writers. Still, the actual political situation was poorly explained and the writing was not as vivid as it could've been. I give it three stars.
  • (3/5)
    Disappointing. Orwell is not nearly as crisp and clear here as in his essays, which I'd been reading just before. The history is fascinating, but also deeply depressing. I recommend the essays for his style and 1984 for his pessimism instead.
  • (4/5)
    This was the first book I read on the Spanish Civil War. I found it very captivating. I read it a long time ago so I can't say much more...
  • (3/5)
    Frank story of Orwell's disillusionment and break with communism. Raw anecdotes about trench war in Northern Spain in 1937 as well as about escaping from the Stalinist repression in Barcelona.
  • (4/5)
    Worth reading if for nothing other than Orwell's description of being shot.
  • (5/5)
    George Orwell, nee, Eric Arthur Blair, is best known for his novella Animal Farm and the dystopian novel 1984. But Orwell was also a poet, essayist, and journalist and Homage to Catalonia is a work of autobiography recounting his half a year fighting as a militia man in the Spanish Civil War. I read the 1952 reissue with an introduction by Lionel Trilling which was my least favorite part of the book. Dense with literary criticism, the title is “George Orwell and the Politics of Truth," his standout line is "George Orwell is not a genius." Well perhaps he is not, but his writing is a hell of a lot clearer and more enjoyable than yours is Lionel. Orwell's writing is crisp and he alternates between the personal and the political, at times going very deep into the different political factions that is interesting but a bit hard to follow at times. Of this work, Orwell once wrote, "Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for Democratic Socialism, as I understand it." 1984 and Animal Farm are still assigned to school children but Homage to Catalonia, for what it says about the deception and distortion of truth by the media and other forms of propaganda, is just as relevant to today as ever. Orwell would not at all be surprised by the spread of "fake news" and the continued distortions of truth exacerbated by social media.
  • (5/5)
    This is a very powerful book. It's a first-hand account of how Orwell found himself volunteering for an anti-Fascist brigade, and how utterly disillusioning the whole experience was, as the fractious anti-Fascists wasted enormous amounts of energy fighting each other instead of the real enemy. There are relevant lessons for any political campaign today (certainly I see the same tendencies in the environmental movement), and it also does a lot to illuminate where he was coming from with Animal Farm and 1984. Having studied these at school I was left under the impression that Orwell was a rather pro-establishment writer, but reading his non-fiction makes it clear that he was a strong ideological Socialist, and his critiques of Stalinism have all the bitterness of someone seeing his own ideals betrayed.
  • (4/5)
    Orwell's experience as both a journalist and fighter in the Spanish Civil War. Detailed in its description of the day to day drudgery of war and of the unusual citizen army the Catalonians created. An important read for those interested in the Spanish Civil War and the development of one of the 20th century's great writers.