George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia

9780141183053The Spanish Civil War began in July 1936, and continued through April 1, 1939. The civil war commenced, when a military coup was launched against the elected government of Spain, during the Second Spanish Republic. It resulted in the eventual defeat of the legitimate government. During the civil war, numerous groups with an extremely wide range of political and social views, generally referred to collectively as the Republicans, supported the government. The Republicans included strong contingents of Communists and anarchists and additionally included many residents of urban population centers. The Republican government was also particularly strong in industrial regions, including Catalonia and the Basque region.

The military coup, generally referred to collectively as the Nationalist cause, included primarily rural, wealthy and conservative elements. The Nationalists were also strongly supported by the Roman Catholic Church, as the Republicans were vehemently anti-clerical. While the Republicans favored a non-centralized, regionally independent approach to governance, the Nationalists favored strongly centralized power. The Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, ultimately triumphed and installed a dictatorship, which would be pro-Fascist, though officially neutral during World War II.

George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia was first published in 1938 and is a first-person narrative relating his personal experiences as an infantry soldier fighting on the Republican side of the conflict, from December 1936 through June 1937 in or near Catalonia and Aragon. It is worth noting that when Orwell wrote and published the first edition of the book, the outcome of the Spanish Civil War was still far from certain. Orwell arrives in Barcelona in late 1936 as a journalist. He gets caught up in the revolutionary spirit of the times and joins the militia. He is assigned to a POUM unit. He spends some time in basic training and then spends three months in the trenches at the front. He sees some combat, but is mostly bored, hungry and exhausted.

He then receives some leave and returns to Barcelona to join his wife who has, by this time, also traveled to Spain. In Barcelona, however, fighting breaks out between rival Republican groups. Orwell is caught up in several days of street fighting, which eventually dwindles away. He briefly returns to the front and is seriously wounded and evacuated to a hospital, where he partially recuperates. Continued political rivalry in the Republican government eventually leads to the suppression of POUM, the political group with which Orwell is affiliated. As POUM is suppressed, former members are arrested, jailed, and sometimes executed. Orwell, his wife, and a few comrades escape arrest and flee to France. Orwell then travels to England, where he makes an extensive review of news accounts of the war and writes the book. He intersperses his journalist account of his personal war experiences with two lengthy sections describing the political situation in Catalonia, and with numerous corrections to what he sees as unjust views of, and information about, the war.



8 responses

  1. Hello all,

    Just a curiosity: The book starts Orwell talking about the “Lenin barracks”. Here you can see a picture of him in this place:

    (he is the tall guy at the end of the row)

    The Lenin barracks were the Lepanto barracks (they changed the name during the war). Nowadays the “ciutat de la justícia” in Barcelona.



  2. Foto impresionant !!!

  3. After finishing first and second chapters, I have to say …

    *) this is going to be a nice reading – I like the site, the time is very interesting, the composition is well done, the descriptions very impressive, there are funny situations, etc

    *) it is going to be a tough book – in 20 pages I had to look up in the dictionary around 50 “dificult” words.

    I am still surprised that after 25 years of learning english I still find 4-letter new words, as “feat”, “daub” or “fowl” or “dung” (they are “hazaña”, “mancha”, “pollo” and “excremento”).

    To make it a bit more dificult, this guy uses “diferent” words, as “cog” (diente)
    or uses similar words, as “gaiter” and “leggings” (both are “polaina”),
    or “mob” and “swarm” (both are “gentio”).

    I am using a very good Android english-spanish dictionary (“DIC-o”), but it knew nothing about word “chaff” (“gluma”) or “puttees” (“polaina”, again) – we are lucky to have Google.

    So, here comes my questions : what is the difference between “puttees”, “gaiter” and “leggings” ? They come up together on page 7, line 10 from the top.

    Enjoy ! Sebastian.

  4. Wikipedia says

    In Army parlance, a gaiter covers leg and bootlacing; a legging covers only the leg.
    In RAF parlance, gaiter includes legging.
    The American Army during World War I and World War II had leggings, which were gaiters.


    I understand “gaiter includes legging” – they are larger.

    But I dont understand the last sentence :
    “the american army had leggings, which were gaiters”


  5. Hello friends,

    It seems there is some controversy on the Internet about the Lenin quarters (some sources says it was the current Lepanto quarters, others a former barracks in Sants now converted into a flat building).

    Anyway, I have read half of the book. The chapter I am reading is when Orwell is involved in the Barcelona street fighting between the different parties. He talks a lot of the cafe Moka. It is still there but ultramodernized… (a pitty),2.171123,3a,75y,45.15h,84.93t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sm_Ub8FAUoj8-D10K1018iA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=ca

    The POUM building corresponds to the Poliorama theater and, above, the Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts de Barcelona that, on the roof, have two small observatories (I’ve been there).



  6. it is worth spending 5 minutes at WIKIPEDIA

  7. direct :

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