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More Writers of the Spanish Civil War

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.

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The year 2016 saw the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and as each year passes, the ‘industry’ –as it might be called– of writings on the war grows. Ten years before, in a study on the English-speaking members of the International Brigades, the editors put the figure at possibly over 35,000 titles of all types of writing, from books, articles and doctoral theses to novels (Rodríguez Celada et al 2006, 89), and the figure has been steadily rising. Needless to say, the perspectives in this writing vary greatly. Rodríguez Celada and his co-editors in the work just mentioned have an interesting point when they quite rightly assert that the generally accepted notion that history is written by the victors, is not applicable in the case of the Spanish Civil War (89). More has been written by the defeated supporters of the government of the Republic than by the supporters of Franco. In his Author’s Note to They Shall Not Pass! The British Battalion at Jarama: The Spanish Civil War, Ben Hughes offers reasons for this, at least for the writings by British participants:

Although they won the war, the Nationalists1 lost the battle for hearts and minds that followed and therefore the market for their memoirs has been limited. Furthermore, after Franco’s death, Spain underwent a period of deliberate forgetting (el pacto del olvido) and as the veterans entered their twilight years, the desire to record their reflections...

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