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Homage to Catalonia MP3 CD – Unabridged, December 1, 2011
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MP3 CD, Audiobook, Unabridged
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[Read by Frederick Davidson]
Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
In 1936, George Orwell went to Spain to report on the civil war and instead joined the P.O.U.M. militia to fight against the Fascists. In this now justly famous account of his experience, he describes both the bleak and the comic aspects of trench warfare on the Aragon front, the Barcelona uprising in May 1937, his nearly fatal wounding just two weeks later, and his escape from Barcelona into France after the P.O.U.M. was suppressed.
As important as the story of the war itself - is Orwell's analysis of why the Communist Party sabotaged the workers' revolution and branded the P.O.U.M. as Trotskyist, which provides an essential key to understanding the outcome of the war and an ironic sidelight on international Communism. It was during this period in Spain that Orwell learned for himself the nature of totalitarianism in practice, an education that laid the groundwork for his great books Animal Farm and 1984.
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''Clear-eyed and unflinching . . . At once history and a moral and imaginative experience. Thus the 'raw material' becomes no less a work of art than its fictional elaboration in 1984.'' --New York Herald Tribune Book Review
''[A] triumph . . . The audio presentation adds a new dimension to a text which is required reading for any student of the Spanish Civil War.'' --AudioFile
About the Author
- Publisher : Blackstone Audio, Inc.; MP3CD Unabridged edition (December 1, 2011)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 1455121037
- ISBN-13 : 978-1455121038
- Item Weight : 2.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.4 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,184,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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That it was a complicated war is a profound understatement. While it was, on the surface, a face off between the Nationalists and the Republicans, the participants represented a dizzying array of political affiliations—fascists, anarchists, socialists, revolutionaries, communists, and an impressive contingent of foreigners generally supportive of Western democrat principles.
More famous for “Animal Farm” and “1984”, both of which were written later, this might be Orwell’s most insightful book. Contrary to other great writers who gained profound insight through their genius, Orwell gained his insight through his unwavering realism and ability to see things for what they are. (The realism is so candid, in fact, that you will laugh out loud in places where other authors might make you sigh in despair.)
In this case he dispels the romanticism of war and the idealism of communism. While the intelligentsia around the world were debating the lofty ideals of the proletarian struggle, the democratic ideal, and the dignity of all men, Orwell points out, life in the trenches is far less political. The priorities there are warmth, sustenance, and, if you’re lucky, a useable weapon.
Franco and the Nationalists/Fascists won the war, Orwell ultimately concludes, not for any ideological reason, but for the simple reason that they had better weapons and a more robust supply chain, thanks to the support of Italy and Germany. The Republic enjoyed no foreign support other than that of Russia, ironically enough, but the Russian agenda was ultimately not Spain, but the Stalinist brand of communism.
This is, I believe, a hauntingly relevant portrayal, with different names, of the current political situation in much of the West. The diversity and range of our political tribes and sub-tribes is mystifying, to say the least. In the US, for example, there are the never-Trump conservatives, the traditional conservatives, the centrists, the liberals, the progressives, the socialists, and, of course, the Trumpers.
All of these tribes, however, are defined by romantic ideals, in much the same way that the parties to the Spanish Civil War were. Seldom, however, do those ideals touch down in the reality people actually face in their day-to-day lives. And it is this disconnect, I believe, that is at the heart of the anger, frustration, and resulting hostility the US is experiencing today. Ideals are not reality.
Sometimes, as in this book, it is the mundane and simple aspects of reality that give rise to the most profound idealism. That is certainly the case here, where Republican soldiers at the front were cooperating and forging connections between tribes while their counterparts, far removed from the fighting, were literally killing each other based on minor and little understood or relevant differences in ideology that few people could even articulate.
Orwell wrote a masterpiece, and he wrote it well, and I strongly suggest you indulge in it. It is a much more contemporary story than you might expect.
The text is well written, the images vivid, the characters well drawn. This is enlightening look at one of the darker chapters in history.
Top reviews from other countries
Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print
Never use a long word where a short one will do
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous
These rules pretty much describe Orwell's own writing style, which is simple and straightforward, yet elegant and engaging. He was a man who lived a very full and somewhat eccentric life, giving up a career in the Burmese police force to wander around Britain as a Tramp and to live in poverty in Paris. He was very connected to working people and so understandably was drawn to the socialist side against Franco's Fascists in the Spanish Civil War (1936-9).
This is a remarkably detailed account of an ordinary foot soldier's life in wartime - comparable to Robert Graves' `Goodbye to All That' about his time in the trenches in WW1. Orwell doesn't have the big picture of how the war is going or what the strategy is but can see the hopeless organisation and pitiful logistics of the Socialists. He's cold, hungry, ill clothed and badly armed but it's remarkable how cheerful he and his comrades remain. I would guess that this is an almost universal account of the nonsense of war from a soldier's point of view.
In the second part of the book he goes on leave to Barcelona and gives an account of the complex political rivalry between the socialist factions. As an account of the home front this is less successful as the political infighting seems ridiculously petty and un-affecting compared to the soldier's life. Eventually however the group to which Orwell belongs (POUM) losses the political fight and becomes a banned organisation so that he has to flee Spain to avoid arrest.
In many ways this is bang up-to-date - I can well believe that anti-government groups in, say, the Arab spring are very much like Orwell's socialists - fervent for their cause, but badly equipped and divided politically. To that extent this is a very modern book that has some universal truths about revolution and political change and which is well worth reading.
In the light of the recent events at the G6 in Germany its worth being reminded that the Anarchists, who are not Communists; were at the heart of the Spanish Government.