Homage to Catalonia
History and Spanish
27 February 2021
The book I chose to review was ‘An homage to Catalonia’, by George Orwell. As a History and Modern Languages student studying Spanish and Catalan, it seemed like the perfect choice. The book is an account written by the famous author of ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’ George Orwell, of his time in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. Orwell joined the Spanish Civil war as an international volunteer. These foreign fighters came to Spain as they believed in the goals of the Republican army, the camp that fought against the side of the soon-to-be dictator Francisco Franco. Not only is it an account of what Orwell experienced himself, but it also details many of the difficulties which led to the fall of the Republican side, such as its splintering into many different leftist groups.
An homage to Catalonia is relevant both to history and the Spanish side of my course. Firstly, it is a primary source, Orwell writes about his own experiences and opinions of fighting and joining the civil war, a topic you can study within some history papers focusing on Europe during the 20th Century. It is also interesting to analyse how and to what extent Orwell’s view as an outsider to a civil war that was not his is useful for historians. As well as this, Orwell details clearly and simply the differences in Spanish politics at the time, and what groups made up the opposing sides. It helps to simply a conflict that is very complex and hard to understand.
The Spanish Civil War is also an important piece of history to know when studying literature from 20th Century Spain, as much of what was written then is heavily influenced by this event. So, having some background knowledge on this can be really useful when reading texts during your degree.
I came across this book as I studied the Spanish Civil War in one of my history papers, and my supervisor recommended it to me. It is an accessible read as it’s not written in academic language and reads more like a novel.
“The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are simply not compatible with military efficiency.” I found this quote from the book to be particularly interesting as it highlights how war does not only affect a population in terms of outright violence, but it also forces the degradation of other aspects of a society.