Spanish Civil War Books

From 1936 to 1939, the Spanish Civil War was one of the biggest stories in international news. People around the world were horrified by the images of destruction and fascinated by clash of ideologies made real in Spain. Capitalism, theocracy, fascism, communism, socialism, and anarchism all had their partisans on the battlefields and in the war of ideas. Many young people found their political voice through this conflict and wrote narratives–journalistic and fictional–about their experiences. Here are four great reads, currently in stock at Idlewild, about the Spanish Civil War.

THE FORGING OF A REBEL, Arturo Barea — Pushkin Press has recently released a beautiful new one-volume edition of this three-part modern masterpiece. Arturo Barea’s autobiography begins with his childhood in pre-war Madrid, where he first becomes aware of the class divisions that will soon tear Spanish society apart. His account of the lead-up to the war, and his own experiences as a Republican soldier fighting to save his country and his hometown from fascism are unforgettable.

MAZURKA FOR TWO DEAD MEN, Camilo José Cela — Nobel Prize winner Cela’s novel about the Spanish Civil War has the qualities of a fable. In a small, backward village in Galicia, a murder in 1936 and the longed-for vengeance of that murder in 1939 frame the titanic conflict that is simultaneously taking place throughout all of Spain.

HOMAGE TO CATALONIA, George Orwell — An English-language classic, George Orwell’s memoir of his experience as a volunteer soldier fighting for the Republican cause in Catalonia is by turns darkly funny, insightful, and heart-breaking. Orwell’s keenly perceptive writing lays bare the petty squabbles and murderous infighting that contributed to the downfall of Republican Spain.

UNCERTAIN GLORY, Joan Sales — Sales, a native of Barcelona, was 24 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and he joined the fight on the Republican side. After their loss, he spent ten years in exile. This novel draws on his own experiences as a young man while telling a picaresque tale of another young Catalan who goes to war for adventure, seeks love, and eventually finds horror and disillusionment.