Tyler 's Reviews > Homage to Catalonia

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
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's review
Sep 12, 2008

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bookshelves: non-fiction
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviews
Recommended for: Journalists; Historians; Anarchists
Read in September, 2008

If once you had walked into an egalitarian utopia of brotherhood, you could only have been in Catalonia, the sole territory on earth ever to try to implement anarchist principles. And you could only have been George Orwell.

The fight against fascism, though, first drew the English journalist into the Spanish Civil War. Homage to Catalonia details one of the most remarkable events in history -- a quest for freedom for which people all over the world came voluntarily to fight and die.

This crusade was thwarted, in turn, by one of history's most consequential political betrayals; if Orwell hadn’t seen it first hand, the machinations would now be lost to history. Besides this book, only one other source I know of deals with that intrigue from a privileged standpoint ...


(scroll to "Defeat of the Revolution")

... and it's interesting that even it, too, misses Orwell's point about the 1937 Barecelona street fighting: POUM and CNT did not "capitulate."

This book has both defects and strong points:

The Bad: George Orwell wrote this in six months to set straight the record about Spain’s Republican government. The book is hastily structured; two appendices at the end should have been folded into the narrative. The author tends to repeat himself, and at times sounds importunate and politically correct (how many times do we need to hear how gracious the Spanish people are?). Had he had several years to write the book, it would be a much smoother read. As it stands, the story has a feel of urgency which no longer matters to modern readers.

The Good: Still, it is a professional journalist writing, and George Orwell at that. So it’s not a bad read. With his perspective and training, Orwell has written an historically significant account about a major event which may have slipped under the tide of history were it not for this single witness. And the war in Spain was too interesting, from too many angles, to make for a dull read. The book has the feel of a mystery or detective novel, except the crime here is both true and far-reaching in its scope. Here you'll find an exposé of a criminal conspiracy that “they” surely never wanted to see the light of day.

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