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on 25 July 2016
Orwell's account of his time fighting in the Spanish civil war shows the futility of war and how those who would seem to be friends on the same side quickly descend into blame tactics and war amongst themselves for position. Wars can never be won if you are also warring with yourself.
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on 26 July 2017
A great read and George Orwell's appendices give an understandable picture of how confusing the political situation was for the Government side in the Spanish Civil War.
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on 9 September 2017
great book
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on 23 August 2017
A very different book to his novels. An interest to all history fans. An interesting account of the 1930s. Recommended
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on 7 August 2017
good story
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on 10 January 2016
Quite a tough read but decent he has better books
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on 24 July 2017
Interesting reading. Like the format of the book which must be an up to date Penguin version.
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on 23 July 2017
I have always found the Spanish Civil War confusing. After reading Homage to Catalonia, I at least feel that I was justified in my confusion. On the surface, of course, it was a conflict between Franco’s Fascists and the democratic Republican government, but it was far more complicated than that. When Orwell arrived in Spain to fight on the Republican side with the P.O.U.M. militia, a P.S.U.C. position was pointed out to him and he was told “Those are the Socialists” to which he responded, “Aren’t we all Socialists?” He quickly learned that would be far too easy. Orwell does an admirable job of sorting out the alphabet soup of the anti-Fascist parties and militias - the P.S.U.C., C.N.T., F.A.I., P.O.U.M., U.G.T., etc., etc. The distinctions between the Anarchists, left-wing Communists, and right-wing Communists seem subtle, especially since the groups were supposedly united in their opposition to Franco, but they became critically important later. As Orwell learned, associating with the wrong party was a potentially lethal decision.

Orwell served in the P.O.U.M. (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) in 1937. He chose the party somewhat arbitrarily, based on connections he had through the British Independent Labour Party. Rather than providing a comprehensive discussion of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell focuses on his personal experiences of fighting at the front (against the Fascists). He then moves on to the May, 1937 street fighting in Barcelona, when the various Republican groups fought each other. He vividly describes the experiences of war, with the cold, dirt, and lice, the inadequate weapons, and the idealistic but inexperienced soldiers, some of whom were children. With characteristic dryness, he recounts events such as being shot in the throat by a sniper, beginning, “The whole experience of being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think it is worth describing in detail.” I would say so.

More interesting, however, is Orwell’s growing disillusionment with the politics of the war, a story he surely did not expect to have to tell when he set out to fight Fascism. He contrasts the atmosphere in Barcelona when he first arrived in Spain, when the workers were in control and he “breathed the air of equality,” with the oppressive environment of the police state that predominated just a few months later. The Soviet-backed P.S.U.C. pinned the May fighting in Barcelona on Orwell’s P.O.U.M., an excuse to suppress the P.O.U.M. and declare it illegal. The P.O.U.M. members were accused of being “Trotsky-Fascists,” which seems like an amusing oxymoron, but with it came the implication that they had secretly aided Franco. This was disastrous for the P.O.U.M. members, many of whom were thrown in jail for months on end without being charged of anything or allowed to stand trial. Many of them “disappeared,” including Andrés Nin, the leader of the P.O.U.M., who met a horrible end at the hands of the NKVD (the Soviet secret police).

Orwell’s commanding officer and friend Georges Kopp was imprisoned in terrible conditions. Orwell recounts a poignant story of frantically rushing around the city trying to convince the authorities to read a letter that would exonerate Kopp. His Spanish was shaky and his voice even weaker after the vocal cord paralysis he suffered from his neck wound. He also ran a very real risk of being arrested himself, simply by association with Kopp and the P.O.U.M. Orwell’s room was raided and all of his books and papers confiscated by the secret police. He and his wife only barely escaped from Spain themselves.

The Spanish Civil War was a microcosm of the conflict that was developing in Europe in the 1930s, a sort of testing ground for ideologies in preparation for World War II. Many foreigners came to fight, idealistically hoping to strike out against Fascism and to support a new government which seemed to represent the working people. Unfortunately, as Orwell came to find, other doctrines were tested as well, with the terrors of the totalitarian police state that came to dominate his later writing.
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on 28 August 2012
Orwell had six rules for good writing:

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.
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on 26 March 2017
A very good book about George Orwell's experiences fighting against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War.
I read the book in an afternoon, couldn't put it down!
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