Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell’s personal account of the Spanish Civil War of 1936, which saw Franco’s fascists lined up against socialists and anarchists.
Orwell took part as a militiaman in the left-wing anti-stanilist party POUM. The war the author describes is not the one we might mistakenly imagine, also influenced by 21st century film works. It is a war of positions, exhausting and stressful. George Orwell describes camp life at that time: the endless hours of waiting, the incessant rain that makes the ground muddy, the bunkers dug at best and shared by dozens of comrades-in-arms, the crabs, the tattered clothes, the outdated weapons, the scarcity of ammunition. In Barcelona, however, the situation is completely different. As if the war were just a scary story to admonish children to go to bed early and not throw tantrums, people live carefree lives, social hierarchies are broken down and an air of well-being hovers everywhere.
In 1937 the war finally ended, but the outcome was far from what we could imagine. The Spanish civil struggle ended with the communists in power, and the POUM banned, accused of instigating the revolution and being a spy for fascism. Orwell, whose throat was severely wounded by a firearm, loses his voice and is forced to go into hiding during the whole period of repression. He managed to escape to France and finally to England. During the journey he describes his thoughts on the injustice of war: not amazed by the bloodshed but deeply disgusted by the government’s treatment of certain individuals, such as one of his comrades-in-arms called Kopp, who despite having renounced everything and denied himself in order to fight for social equality and the decisive elimination of social injustice, are outlawed, arrested and executed without trial.
The work concludes with the return to southern England and how, far from the war and with the view bathed in greenery, the mind almost seems to forget the horrors experienced.
This book was kindly given to me for Christmas. I was very surprised to receive a little-known work that is a personal account of an author I have been enjoying a lot lately. War is fatigue, disease, fear, death. Everything you own can be taken away in a moment, and the ideals you fight for can be the cause of your exile. History is always repeating itself, and this work is just a drop in the ocean… A precious drop.