Category: Civil War

Jesús Moncada: Camí de sirga (The Towpath)

The latest addition to my website is Jesús Moncada‘s Camí de sirga (The Towpath). This is is factionalised account of the town of Mequinenza, Moncada’s home town. which was moved to the other side of the river Ebro to make way for a hydroelectric dam. Moncada gives an affectionate but at times mocking account of the town and its inhabitants as they prepare for the move, delving back into the history of the town. We follow, in particular the story of Carlota Torres, from her childhood to the time of the move. She remains the last hold-out, refusing to move. There are many divides in the town but, in particular the divide between the rich and poor, which comes to the fore during and after the Civil War. The rich are hypocritical, conducting numerous extramarital affairs, while condemning immorality. The town has done well out of coal, particularly in the two world wars, and shipping on the Ebro. Moncada gives us a rich account of many of the people of the town, past and present, rich in humour but also in affection, at times, poignancy.

Max Aub: Campo abierto [Open Field]


The latest addition to my website is Max Aub‘s Campo abierto [Open Field], the second book in Max Aub’s Magic Labyrinth series about the Spanish Civil War, though the third to be published. This one is set in Valencia in the first part (where Aub grew up) and Madrid in the second part, leading up to the fall of Madrid to the Francoist forces. The book is a series of stories about the various individuals caught up in the Civil War, mainly, though certainly not exclusively on the republican side. We follow a revolutionary theatre group, in particular two young people, Vicente and Asunción, who are in love but too involved in their theatre and politics to tell one another. We also follow various individuals who get shot, because they are on the wrong side, in the wrong place at the wrong time or, in a few cases, fighting against the enemy. Summary executions occur all too frequently. When we move to Madrid, we follow the approach of the Francoist forces as they gradually get closer, with the poorly armed republicans unable to resist Franco’s tanks. Vicente and Asunción both move to Madrid, he fighting with the forces defending Madrid, she with the theatre group. The book ends as Madrid is about to fall to Franco. Aub tells an excellent story, showing the dissent within the republican forces, both the enthusiasm of many of the ordinary people as well as the horrors they have to face and the inevitable defeat, which they cannot believe will happen.

Jorge Ibargüengoitia: Los relámpagos de agosto (The Lightning of August)


The latest addition to my website is Jorge Ibargüengoitia‘s Los relámpagos de agosto (The Lightning of August), a very funny novel whcih ruthlessly satirises the memoirs of Mexican Civil War generals and the generals themselves. This novel is in the form of the memoirs of a fictitious Civil War general, called José Guadalupe Arroyo. He is now retired but telling his memoirs to show how gloriously he behaved and how he was betrayed by others, misunderstood and generally badly treated. He is in retirement at the beginning of the novel, when he receives a summons from an old comrade who is now president-elect and wants Arroyo to be his private secretary. After a night of debauchery, in celebration, he sets out for Mexico City only to learn, while en route, that the president-elect has had a stroke and died. At the funeral, he learns from the president-elect’s widow that Perez H has stolen the golden watch which the president-elect wanted Arroyo to have. When he meets Perez H, he pushes him in a puddle. This will cause him all sorts of problems later, not least because the widow finds the watch, which was not stolen. Soon thereafter, Perez H becomes interim president but Arroyo is too proud to apologise for his behaviour. Conspiracies and counter-conspiracies, mocking not only the Mexico of the time but Mexico as it would later become, take place as everyone tries to make sure they get their piece of the pie. Fighting breaks out and the fact that Arroyo does not do well is, of course, not his fault but the fault of other incompetents, as he is eager to tell us. It is very well done but hardly likely to have endeared him to the then Mexican ruling party.

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