Homage to Catalonia

Homage to Catalonia

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Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

A National Review Top Ten Best Nonfiction Books of the Century
“One of Orwell’s very best books and perhaps the best book that exists on the Spanish Civil War.”—The New Yorker

In 1936, originally intending merely to report on the Spanish Civil War as a journalist, George Orwell found himself embroiled as a participant—as a member of the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unity. Fighting against the Fascists, he described in painfully vivid and occasionally comic detail life in the trenches—with a “democratic army” composed of men with no ranks, no titles, and often no weapons—and his near fatal wounding. As the politics became tangled, Orwell was pulled into a heartbreaking conflict between his own personal ideals and the complicated realities of political power struggles.
Considered one of the finest works by a man V. S. Pritchett called “the wintry conscience of a generation,” Homage to Catalonia is both Orwell’s memoir of his experiences at the front and his tribute to those who died in what he called a fight for common decency. This edition features a new foreword by Adam Hochschild placing the war in greater context and discussing the evolution of Orwell’s views on the Spanish Civil War.
“No one except George Orwell . . . made the violence and self-dramatization of Spain so burning and terrible.”— Alfred Kazin, New York Times
“A wise book, one that once read will never be forgotten.”—Chicago Sunday Tribune

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547416175
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/22/1969
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 111,096
File size: 383 KB

About the Author

GEORGE ORWELL (1903–1950) was born in India and served with the Imperial Police in Burma before joining the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell was the author of six novels as well as numerous essays and nonfiction works.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD is the author of seven books. King Leopold's Ghost was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as was his recent To End All Wars. His Bury the Chains was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN USA Literary Award. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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Homage to Catalonia 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
pajaro More than 1 year ago
George Orwell went to Barcelona in 1936 to cover the Civil War; instead, he decided to make a stand against fascism and enlisted in the militia. For the next year, he served twice at the front and witnessed the street fighting amongst the Government forces in Barcelona. Then, facing jail because the militia he joined was outlawed by the ascendant Stalinists, he escaped into France and then finally home to England. 'Homage to Catalonia' is the result of his observations. Much of the book describes his time spent at the front, along with another portion that untangles - or attempts to - the various goals of the forces fighting for the Spanish Government. Aside from these comments, though, there is a partially voiced complaint that must have preoccupied him for years after, as he revisited it in his later works - the use of propaganda in the war. It's clear that Orwell was frustrated with the way the world's press had spun events of which he himself had first-hand knowledge - for some of the accounts, not only did the papers warp the truth into its complete opposite, but they also never even attempted to reconcile its fiction with reality at all. They simply printed what they wanted their worldwide audience to read. Today, I think, we would look at the publications Orwell refers to and intuit that they were communist publications, and with the experience of the Cold War behind us, assume that they would automatically spin the truth. I doubt Orwell had any illusions about them either, but I do think the effectiveness of these blatant fictions surprised him some. Orwell came to Spain already opposed to fascism - from leftist newsprint in England itself, Orwell was convinced that the conflict was a cut and dried affair of human decency against oppression. My own unexamined opinions about this particular event in history were much the same. Orwell dismantles the idea of the Spanish Civil War as an emblem of the morally pure facing off against evil, and makes it clear that despite whatever idealistic impulses many of the volunteers against Franco may have had, larger forces subverted much of that energy to their own ends. Orwell's account, in conjunction with some other recent readings, forces me to reconsider events I may have looked at as axiomatic blueprints for 'just' causes. The fact that one side was not motiveless does not negate the injustices perpetrated by the other, but it does strip away some of my own illusions (fostered by a popular historical subjectivity). It also serves as a warning to those who, perhaps longing for such a clear-cut moral stance to take, will allow others to sway them to a course of action that is actually doubtful and unclear. Orwell himself is no objective observer - something he readily admits while urging the reader to understand that his description of events can only reflect a small corner of the conflict that he witnessed. Even so, I believe it is a genuine and earnest account, with only the desire to clarify the situation in relation to his experiences. In that context, 'Homage to Catalonia' is an account of the particulars, rooted in the events it covers. And yet, without browbeating the reader, and almost as an aside, other themes inherent in Orwell's seem as germane to my world as it was to his. That a description written seventy-five years ago still carries that fine of an edge is just good history to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's not a wonderfully written book, but it is very honest, compelling, and interesting. In the book, he talks about his experiences volunteering for the Spanish militia during the war against the fascist Franco from 1936 to 1937. He initially arrived as a journalist, but could not help but get involved and enlisted with the closest militia. This happened to be a socialist group that was outlawed several years later. His membership almost landed him in jail and shot like many of his friends. Of course, had he been imprisoned and shot in jail, we would never have seen 1984 or Animal Farm, which are arguably Orwell's most important works. The non-chalant style of this book is one of its most surprising features. It is almost completely opposite that of All Quiet on the Western Front or A Farewell to Arms. Imagine a 250 page first-person livejournal entry about someone's experiences over the past year. This will give you a vague idea of how Homage to Catalonia is written. About half the book made the ennui of war almost unbearable. Unlike those other two books I mentioned, it is strikingly un-romantic. Another interesting quality of this account is that the politics are never crystal clear. Orwell does not dumb down the complex interplay of political parties and motivations as many books and movies about war tend to do. In some places, it was difficult to follow some of the politics, but I think this is because Orwell himself did not have a complete grasp of them. Of course, anyone who purported to have a complete understanding during the war or in several years following the war of the politics was lying. It's absolutely obvious that his experiences in Spain shaped the rest of his life and the rest of his writing. I don't recommend this book unless you have an interest in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell himself, or political ideas such as Communism, Socialism, Marxism, and Anarchy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This to me is George Orwells best work. He strikes a more personal note unlike his writings in 1984 and Animal Farm. The story is of his personal experiences and hardships throughout the Spanish Revolution. If you want to read a all around enjoyable book that is more than enough historically accurate, I suggest Homage to Catalonia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Homage to Catalonia is Orwell's account of the time he spent in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, written in a typically-Orwellian fashion. He describes with great detail not only the sensation of war, and the way in which "war" is executed in Spain (everything ma¿ana, ma¿ana), but also the politics therein. Orwell managed to fascinate me with the minutest details of a war in which I had previously taken only a superficial academic interest. Of particular note are his long passages describing the animosity - and ultimate violence - between the more revolutionary POUM political party and the communist PSUC as they both claim to be working hard to fight Fascism.
womiles More than 1 year ago
The Spanish Civil War was the dress rehearsal for WWII. Fascism vs. Socialism and the fate of the World. Orwell explains. Orwell knows what he is talking about because he was there, two boots on the ground with the anarcho-syndicalist militia. Part of what he knows is that there can never be an objective history written of the fascist rebellion by Franco against the duly elected Republic because Objectivity - facts, figures, statistics, names, dates, photographs, everything we use to make sense of events - died with its boots on. Everybody with an axe to grind (which is everybody) is telling little porkie-pies. So Orwell writes a Memoir, which is not History and doesn't pretend to be. Memoir is honest but uncorroborated recollection, that is to say: it is personal; it is specific, local, and limited in understanding; it is admittedly non-objective. Therefore it is true and as close to Truth in the circumstances as it will ever be possible to be. Brilliant. Don't read this if you don't care or can't think.
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USGrant More than 1 year ago
a classic
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I give it two stars because it's Orwell and because I was obliged to read it for a book club.  It's for readers who are interested in the day-to-day of guerilla warfare, and it also helps to have sympathy for Communism, which I do not.  It can be very confusing, because the conflict itself was very chaotic.  The book's title suggests a certain romanticism, which is actually lacking.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. It was a good book. It had a lot of action and some exciting events in it. It was a book about the Spanish Civil War, so it was pretty good. War was kind of hard, a lot of people suffered. There were some shootings in this book. My favorite part in this book was when they threw bombs. It was awesome reading that. The book was great. I was really interested in reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I swear this was the most, by far the most BORING book, I began reading it and I swear the language is so lame and complicated, everything never really settles down, yeah its a war novel, but Orwell has done better. Read this book only if you have to, and even then you won't be able to finish it (I did not-130 pages of non-sense) I dread the momment when I have to review this book for class. STAY AWAY FROM THIS TOO COMPLICATED JOURNAL!!!!