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Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics) Mass Market Paperback – 3 Jan 2013
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About the Author
Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by his pen-name, George Orwell, was born in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. An author and journalist, Orwell was one of the most prominent and influential figures in twentieth-century literature. His unique political allegory Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame. His novels and non-fiction include Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.
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Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print
Never use a long word where a short one will do
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous
These rules pretty much describe Orwell's own writing style, which is simple and straightforward, yet elegant and engaging. He was a man who lived a very full and somewhat eccentric life, giving up a career in the Burmese police force to wander around Britain as a Tramp and to live in poverty in Paris. He was very connected to working people and so understandably was drawn to the socialist side against Franco's Fascists in the Spanish Civil War (1936-9).
This is a remarkably detailed account of an ordinary foot soldier's life in wartime - comparable to Robert Graves' `Goodbye to All That' about his time in the trenches in WW1. Orwell doesn't have the big picture of how the war is going or what the strategy is but can see the hopeless organisation and pitiful logistics of the Socialists. He's cold, hungry, ill clothed and badly armed but it's remarkable how cheerful he and his comrades remain. I would guess that this is an almost universal account of the nonsense of war from a soldier's point of view.
In the second part of the book he goes on leave to Barcelona and gives an account of the complex political rivalry between the socialist factions. As an account of the home front this is less successful as the political infighting seems ridiculously petty and un-affecting compared to the soldier's life. Eventually however the group to which Orwell belongs (POUM) losses the political fight and becomes a banned organisation so that he has to flee Spain to avoid arrest.
In many ways this is bang up-to-date - I can well believe that anti-government groups in, say, the Arab spring are very much like Orwell's socialists - fervent for their cause, but badly equipped and divided politically. To that extent this is a very modern book that has some universal truths about revolution and political change and which is well worth reading.
Orwell recounts with gritty detail the unpleasantness and grittiness of trench warfare, while sentimentally recalling the comradery among members of the POUM Militia, and the egalitarian nature of fighting in a socialist militia unit.
Orwell’s recall and description is vivid, realistic, and though far from romanticized, one cannot help but develop a strange sentimentality toward the days he describes. One feels themselves living with him, for better or for worse.
His recall of Barcelona is an excellent mirror of the past, and brings to life the urban reality of Spanish Civil War era Spain. Aside from being a factual recall, the latter part of the book reads like an espionage thriller when his POUM affiliation marks him for arrest, in turn turning the memoir into an escape drama.
The appendices shed much needed light onto the political situation of the time, but far from being a simply history lesson, they provide a much-needed insight into the trend of world opinion at the time. Orwell’s singles out the then Manchester Guardian as the only paper providing an honest and impartial account of the conflict, and unsurprisingly, The Daily Mail took the side of fascism yet again.
For one looking for an insight into Catalonian nationalism, little is to be found in this memoir (as that was the initial reason why this reader picked up the book) however, the book stands tall on its own merits as a memoir of the first order.
Contents. When looking for a book to read about the Spanish Civil War I found this with a comment it was well written.
I need some help to untangle the reasons for and progress of the war kafter seeing Michael Portillo introduce a series of programmes using old colour film footage on late night TV.
Yes, the book is clearly written as recommended by others although only reflects the early stages of the war as George Orwell managed to escape a Spanish prison. His descriptions of being shot are to me classic description and writing.
On reading about Stroud yesterday It appears George Orwell spent much time in a sanitorium in the town before his early death
I am usually not a fan of extra commentary written in books written by others but in this case the notes were helpful. Orwell also cautioned about others views of the war. I will bear this warning in mind.
Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab!
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