Homage to Catalonia. by George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell’s fascinating account of his part in the Spanish civil war. In a strikingly honest manner it details his basic training (or lack of it!), various theatres of warfare and the underpinning political factions involved. Unsurprisingly it is the latter on which Orwell focuses attention, the political parties, splinter groups and partisan bickering are laid bare in a methodical manner. It is clear by the constant referral to the inevitable inner party squabblings that hampered the anti fascist effort, that at points he was driven to despair.

Orwell manages to remain detached throughout and gives an honest description of his experiences, feelings and beliefs. In that respect it is less a story and more an historical work. He struggles throughout with the notion of fighting and romanticism. Mostly treating war in an objective soldierly manner, but occasionally acknowledging his motives as passion, a product of working class revolutionary zeal.

Orwell treats the media handling of the war with a 21st century style contempt. At every turn we are reminded of the misrepresentation perpetrated by both the British and Spanish press, usually by journalists hundreds of miles away from the fighting. He notes a particular dislike for the biased reporting of the Daily Mail on more than one occasion, no doubt he would feel the same if he were alive today.

He reminds the reader throughout of his admiration for Spain and the friendliness extended by its people, in particular you can tell by the descriptions of Barcelona as a city that continues to function amid the street battles that he is quite taken with the place. I liked his honest attitude towards the ineffectiveness of a badly trained and poorly equipped army of which he was a member, it is rare for an historical English text to contain such an honest appraisal of warfare.

A fantastic expose of the Spanish civil war that cleverly manages to combine romance and fact.

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