George Orwell – Homage to Catalonia

downloadHomage to Catalonia is an account of Orwell’s experiences  whilst fighting for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.  Like other foreigners Orwell volunteered to fight for the Republican side, and he joined the  POUM, a Communist, anti Stalinist, workers party which was eventually declared illegal and purged by the Republican government.   As Orwell spends longer in Spain he becomes more disillusioned about fighting for the Republican cause  and he begins to believe  that Republican government were actually trying to delay a proletariat revolution, and this book shows his transition into an anti-Stalinist as reflected in Animal Farm and 1984. 

I loved his descriptions of Spain and the  Spanish and their open and hospitable nature.  Even though I have read a lot about the Civil War I had not realised how many similarities it shared with World War I, even though some describe it as the first modern war.  There was a lack of training for the troops,  a shortage of  guns so training consisted of constant drill,  they fought using trench warfare and therefore had problems with lice and rats.   Orwell describes how training with guns will be  mañana  (tomorrow) which  of course never comes.  The POUM come across as completely untrained: no-one knew how to load a gun apart from Orwell.     

I know quite a lot about the Civil War but some of this book left me confused. The different factions within the Republican side are almost impossible to keep track of and Orwell himself in one of the appendices says if you are not interested in political controversy, to  skip  this chapter, I was interested but I wish I had followed his advice. I suggest leaving the appendices  until last (originally they were chapters within the book) or skipping them altogether.  In my opinion as a book on the Spanish Civil War this book was much better than For Whom the Bell Tolls but not as good as Soldiers of Salamis.

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