Experience Put to Use
Edited By Celia M. Wallhead
Further to the first book, Writers of the Spanish Civil War: The Testimony of Their Auto/Biographies (2011), which featured the writings on the war (1936–39) of six key British and American authors: Gerald Brenan, Robert Graves, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Stephen Spender and Laurie Lee, this new work studies the actions in the war of those physically involved and writings focused on the war, either at the time or later, by eight more foreign authors: Virginia Woolf, John Dos Passos, Franz Borkenau, V. S. Pritchett, André Malraux, Arthur Koestler, Martha Gellhorn and Peter Kemp. In addition to comparing their autobiographies with what their biographers said, in order to show up any discrepancies, as had been done in the first book, here, the texts are scrutinized to detect use of stereotypes or adaptation of the material to other purposes in the writing. New perspectives are introduced now in that two of the authors are women, one writing from a distance but deeply affected by the war (Virginia Woolf) and one active in journalism on the spot (Martha Gellhorn), and our final author, Peter Kemp, went to Spain to fight on the side of the Nationalists under Franco as opposed to the Republicans.
Chapter 3. Franz Borkenau (1900–1957) Microhistory in The Spanish Cockpit: Fusing Informed Perspective with Eyewitness Narrative (Melissa Leismer)
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Chapter 3. Franz Borkenau (1900–1957)Microhistory in The Spanish Cockpit: Fusing Informed Perspective with Eyewitness Narrative
When Dr Borkenau’s The Spanish Cockpit appeared the Spanish war was about a year old and the book dealt only with the events of the first six or seven months. Nevertheless it remains the best book on the subject and, what is more, it is a book different in kind from nearly all that have appeared on either side. As soon as one opened it one was aware that here at last, amid the shrieking horde of propagandists, was a grown-up person, a man capable of writing dispassionately even when he knew the facts. (Orwell 1970d, 385, emphasis in the text)
The fact that many foreigners participating in the Spanish Civil War were writers, and some well-known for their high quality of writing, as well as the war’s seemingly impeccable timing within other events of world history, led Paul Preston to call this conflict a ‘war of words’. Indeed, he used this phrase, reminiscent of H. G. Wells’s science-fiction novel The War of the Worlds, for the title of his book on the subject (1984). Within any war, the armed forces and the hierarchies of military rank are paramount, but power can shift under the weight of propaganda, and the ‘war of words’ of the Spanish Civil War is no exception. The fact that...
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