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on 14 January 2003
For anyone with an interest in Spanish history and culture, I would recommend this book over any strictly historical work I have ever read. Without glossing over personal details or emotions, and even with some inevitable bias and generalisation, Barea gives us an unmatchable picture of Spain between 1900-1939, from his beginnings as the upwardly-mobile son of a washerwoman to his job censoring the war reports of the likes of Hemingway. He shows us how the real Spain lived and what it thought, with a wealth of beautifully observed but incredibly readable detail.
For anyone scared of buying translations, don't be. This was translated by his wife (and indeed the Spanish version was published later as a translation of the English, as the author had lost his original manuscript!) and there are very few points where the writing feels unnatural (a considerable achievement for an Austrian translating from Spanish into English)
Exciting and illuminating, colourful and at times harrowing, this is certainly the best work of history (if a memoir can be called that) I have ever read.
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on 30 June 2001
This is a book, or rather a collection of three books, written at different periods of Arturo Barea's life (1897-1957). He was a Spanish writer and journalist who died in exile in Britain, where he had been living since 1939. He worked also in the BBC as a commentator for the Latin American Section during the years of the Second World War.
His own life experience put him in touch with the working class, the middle class and the leaders of the Spain on the Civil War, from 1936 to 1939; this is the life experience that this book reflects. He deals in an autobiographic way with life in Madrid in the early C20th (1st part, The Forge), the colonial war of Spain in Morocco, where the author fought as a conscript and promoted to officer ( 2nd part, The Track) and the Spanish Civil War in Republican Madrid, where he witnessed as Head of Censorship at the Press Office the events of these three years of resistance and fight against General Franco's rebel army This is a book that includes personal facts and reflections of the author, mixed with historical events, written originally in Spanish but translated into English without losing its liveliness and engagement (although, as it usually happens, some expressions and situations in the original are rather lost in the translation of his wife Ilsa).
This is an exceptional book of compulsive reading, rich in anecdotes and stories which do not diminish its historical interest and value. I would strongly recommend it to anybody interested in Spain, its people and its history, especially the years of Dictatorship before those of Civil War in Madrid (yes, Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn were there among many other "war-tourists"). Barea's most important book(s) was not published in Spain until the dead of Franco in 1975.
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on 20 May 2013
This is a great book or rather a collection of three books. The life and times of Arturo Barea make fascinating reading for anyone interested in the history of early 20th century Spain and especially the great city of Madrid. Barea brings alive the sounds, excitement, poverty,struggles, petty - mindedness and the drudgery of working and living in Madrid in the early 1900's.
He was not always an easy person, either as a child ( you can almost feel the spoilt boy antagonising his brother and sister, and their jealousy of the favourite son) or as an adult with his openness, honesty and analytical approach to what he saw around him.

From the beginning I found myself enthralled with his childhood, family background, and as an adult ,his interpretation of and involvement in, the Spanish Civil War. He does not gloss over the divisions and the pettiness between opposing camps within the republican movement nor the ferocity of Franco's forces and the horrors of the war.

Spain and the Spanish Civil War is a very important period in the history of Spain which has been traditionally ignored, indeed the history of it was rewritten by Franco and is only now being given the prominence it deserves. This book and its three parts is a valuable history document as well as an extraordinary autobiography. To anyone interested in this period of Spanish history and its aftermath this is a must for any bookshelf but more than anything it is a personal testament which stands with the best .
This is not a cheap reprint but it is more than worth the money for anyone interested in Spain, humanity and literature.

I have now bought the Spanish TV series based on the book and having so far only reached the stage where Barea is emerging from boyhood I am already very impressed.
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on 3 June 2012
I owned this book for some time before I began to read it, slightly put off by its size - 3 books in one volume. But when I eventually began, I could not put it down, even for short aeroplane trips abroad. It gripped me from page 1: superbly well-written, and equally well translated by the author's wife, both of them writers by profession. The first volume is an account of a childhood in Madrid in the early 20th century, seen through the eyes of an unusual child - perceptive, highly intelligent and determined. Volume 2 concerns Barea's young man-hood in the army, and Volume 3 centres around his activity in the Spanish Civil War, again in Madrid. This is not a conventional 'history' - it is a deeply personal and passionate story, full of incident and observation. Wait till you reach the account of the landing of an emormous Moray eel...... I recommend this book very highly indeed: it is one of those that makes one feel bereft to have finished it, and to have to do without. I've since given it (a new copy) to one or two very good friends.
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on 18 November 2014
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on 8 September 2014
worth looking at
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