Lisa N's Reviews > Homage to Catalonia

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
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Jul 20, 11

Read from July 14 to 20, 2011

I chose this book because I like Orwell’s writing style. I had maybe a casual interest in the Spanish Civil War. For the most part, the writing was lucid. I enjoy Orwell’s imagery and irony. He made warfare in the trenches sound almost comical.

However, I got pulled into a political mélange I was not quite prepared for. Orwell gave a warning at the beginning of Chapter V which I should have heeded: “If you are not interested in the horrors of party politics, please skip.” I got a headache trying to sort out the economic and political factions--the POUM, the PSUC, the Anarchists, the Communists, the Trotskyists, the Fascists, Anarcho-Syndicalists?? I became so confused I asked my husband, “What exactly is a Fascist? (I thought I knew). While doing some outside research, I ran across a 1947 Orwell article that begins: “Of all the unanswered questions of our time, perhaps the most important is: ‘What is Fascism?’ He goes on to say, “almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.” Though chapter V veered from Orwell’s typical style, I guess it was effective. The book is about his experiences in the war and unfortunately sort of leaves you hanging from a historical perspective. Nevertheless, a great read for Orwell fans.

Some favorite passages:

“They say it takes a thousand bullets to kill a man, and at this rate it would be twenty years before I killed my first Fascist….On this front and at this period of the war the real weapon was not the rifle but the megaphone. Being unable to kill your enemy you shouted at him instead. This method of warfare is so extraordinary that it needs explaining….”

“It is not a nice thing to see a Spanish boy of fifteen carried down the line on a stretcher, with a dazed white face looking out from among the blankets, and to think of the sleek persons in London and Paris who are writing pamphlets to prove that this boy is a Fascist in disguise. One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”

“The whole experience of being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think it is worth describing in detail…..No one I met at this time — doctors, nurses, practicantes, or fellow-patients failed to assure me that a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive. I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all.”

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