Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review - "Homage to Catalonia" by George Orwell

This is George Orwell's vivid account of his six-month (from December 1936 to June 1937) direct involvement in the Spanish Civil War. Other than recounting action-packed combative episodes on the war frontier and treacherous street-fighting scenes in Barcelona, the author also gives a clear-eyed analysis of the mind-boggling multi-faction political strife that prevailed. This essentially boils down to a three-sided struggle between the pro-Franco Fascists (prone to feudalism), the Russian-commissar-controlled Republican government (with bourgeois tendencies) and the revolutionary working-class organizations. He also explains candidly why he thought that the surreptitious manoeuvres of the capitalistic European powers were at least part of the cause for the predictable failure of the Spanish democratic revolution.

This factual non-fiction account reads much like gripping fiction, thanks to Orwell's fluid style of writing. It is as educational as it is informative.

The one thing that sticks with me is the compliment that Orwell pays to the Spanish people. It makes me want to visit Spain and learn more about Spanish culture.

"I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards..... They have, there is no doubt, a generosity, a species of nobility that do not really belong to the twentieth century."

The ultimate lesson that can be drawn from the book is that the perpetual war is always between the haves and the have-nots, whatever fancy political ideological terms are attributed to opposing factions.

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