The Spanish Civil War by Antony Beevor
Linking in with the current reading this is a military history of the conflict.
A historical account of the Spanish Civil War from the origins of the conflict through to the conclusion. It covers all of the major political and military developments without having a bias on either side of the war. That is not always easy to do bearing in mind some of the horrendous things carried out, most notably the bombing of Guernica (the horror of which was famously captured by Picasso in his painting of the same name). The author has also published another updated book on the history of the Spanish Civil War earlier this year: The Battle for Spain.
is it well written?
Beevor is well known for Stalingrad and The Road to Berlin. He has the advantage of the story being in the former instance localised to a single area and long running world famous battle and in the later a story, that although capable of throwing up plenty of new revelations, is generally understood by most people. The Spanish Civil War is not as well known and so his job is a harder one and it is all too easy to fall victim to glazed eyes syndrome as you read the numerous names of generals, partisan leaders, political groups and places that before you read the book meant nothing to you.
You can’t knock Beevor as a military historian but more of a traditional narrative approach might have helped widen the appeal and made it easier to follow and stick with. This was written before his other well known works where narrative was a real cornerstone of the approach and things might have changed in the latest Battle for Spain.
Should it be read?
For those interested in, or studying, the civil war it is a must. But the casual reader is likely to pass it by, which is a shame because it is a book that deserves to have a readership that can learn that before the second world war there was a conflict that tore apart a country and left a fascist, General Franco, in charge long after his contemparies Hitler and Mussolini were dead. It is not always an easy read but this war needs to be better understood.
If you like Beevor then try Stalingrad and The Road to Berlin. In terms of the Civil War from a fictional point of view you could also read the Hemingway currently under discussion, For Whom the Bell Tolls, or Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.
Version – Cassell military paperbacks
Funny how you can pick up a book and it turns out to have a relevance you hadn’t realised. In an article titled “For whom the bell tolled” John Walsh in today’s Independent writes about the writers that went out to fight in the Spanish Civil War and the reaction of the literary establishment and the arguments the conflict created with some backing the communists but others being caught inbetween not wanting to back either so picking a group like the anarchists as a safer bet.
The article mentions Hemingway and Orwell but also W H Auden that went out to fight but also several other writers including the likes of Ezra Pound who were vocal in the debate it sparked in literary circles about which side was worth fighting for.
The 70th anniversary of the Civil War is on the 17 July so it is an interesting time to be reading For Whom the bell tolls.
Also a good stepping stone tip – the next book to go for after Bell Tolls -is mentioned in the article. It remarks that the other major work to come out of the Civil War was L’Espoir by Andre Malraux. Time to head to eBay or Abe to get that one…
To read the Independent article click on: http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/books/features/article1178558.ece