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Books on Spain

A round-up and review of Books on Spain. Some old some new, fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes brief, sometimes in depth but never negative. If I don’t like it, I won’t review it!

For Whom The Bell Tolls
14 November 2014 @ 14:18

For Whom The Bell Tolls

One of the Great Books of the 20th century and certainly Hemmingway’s zenith. Following the author’s  experiences in WW1 he clearly felt a need to explore the themes of heroism and self sacrifice. The background he chose was his beloved Spain where he spent much of his time during his journalistic days.

The background to the book is probably one of the most confusing wars of the 20th century, The Spanish Civil War. Hemmingway carves a path through the politics and approaches the story in a necessary but somewhat simplistic view of evil fascists and heroic republicans.


Robert Jordan is a hero in waiting and when the cause presents itself he wastes no time in heading to Spain to support the loyalist struggle. Hemmingway paints Jordan as a mortal hero, one who recognises his own shortcomings and mortality, a theme Hemmingway often visits in his central characters.

The main thrust of the book covers a period of only three days, although much is also told in flashback. During this time he is reluctantly accepted by a group of guerrilla fighters, meets and falls in love with Maria and is trained to blow up a bridge in order to delay the fascist advance. The dynamics within the small group are beautifully explored and within three days we see the loyalties shift and in the end it is the strong woman, Pilar who emerges as the leader. An interesting piece of writing in what appears to be very patriarchal community within, what is always assumed to be, a highly patriarchal country. Jordan shows a willingness to change as his natural scepticism as he is challenged by the intuitiveness of the females within the group and even begins to believe that some of the signs he sees may indeed be portents. This is highlighted by the final scene in the book where the bracketing of the narrative by his description of the pine forest at both the opening and closing scenes of the book is a remarkable piece of writing.

For anybody who wants to understand the Spanish Civil War, For Whom The Bell Tolls is probably not a bad starting place as ultimately this war was about passions and ideals rather than territories and Hemmingway brings this to life beautifully. Hemmingway’s writing style was unusual at the time and some readers still struggle with it. His dialogue is concise and the lack of floweriness reflects his journalistic background. For me, this makes it a fast paced and enjoyable read but others may find it a bit terse.

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Hephaestus said:
14 November 2014 @ 15:36

Hemingway lived in Altea old town for a while, there is a locals bar that I used to call into thirty odd years ago, it had hams hanging that were smoked by virtue of the locals Ducados cigarettes, I reckon that he would have known of it.

bapcav said:
15 November 2014 @ 07:51

George Orwell`s "Homage to Catalonia" is far better.

It makes it clear that all sides in the Civil War were pretty vile, instead of taking Hemingway`s one-eyed viewpoint.

TravelswithCharlie said:
15 November 2014 @ 11:49

The above comments reflect well the current neoliberal end of ideaology well. Orwell's great 'strength was [his] ignorance [1984].

Looking to the past is a good idea especially through the minds of those who were there. To see the future in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, including the UK take a look at those who are challenging that lack of understanding of the importance of ideaology in shaping economic and social policy. Look up Podemas in Spain.

bapcav said:
15 November 2014 @ 12:07

TravelswithCharlie : I haven`t got a clue what you`re trying to say. Could you post in intelligible terms, rather than TRYING to look like an intellectual ?

Hephaestus said:
15 November 2014 @ 16:33

It's impossible to compare fiction with none fiction.

catalanbrian said:
15 November 2014 @ 17:02

Indeed Bapcav I agree that Homage to Catalonia is a better read but that book was intended to present an overview of the civil war. Hemingway's book is a fictional account of one event from the viewpoint of one side and is not intended to give a balanced overview.

TravelswithCharlie said:
15 November 2014 @ 18:11

To Whom it may concern.

Is it the case my second comment wasn't allowed?

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