Homage to Catalonia

PlaçaGeorgeOrwellHomage to Catalonia is George Orwell’s personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War. The first edition was published in 1938. The book was not published in the United States until February 1952; this edition had an influential preface by Lionel Trilling. The only translation published in Orwell’s lifetime was into Italian, in December 1948. A French translation made by Yvonne Davet—with whom Orwell corresponded, commenting on her translation and providing explanatory notes—in 1938-39, was not published until five years after Orwell’s death.

Orwell served as a private, a corporal (cabo) and—when the informal command structure of the militia gave way to a conventional hierarchy in May 1937—as a lieutenant, on a provisional basis, in Catalonia and Aragon from December 1936 until June 1937. In June 1937 the leftist political party with whose militia he served (the POUM, the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, an anti-Stalinist communist party) was declared an illegal organization and Orwell was consequently forced to flee or face imprisonment.

Having arrived in Barcelona on 26 December 1936 Orwell told John McNair, the Independent Labour Party’s (ILP) representative there, that he had “come to Spain to join the militia to fight against Fascism.” He also told McNair that “he would like to write about the situation and endeavour to stir working class opinion in Britain and France.” McNair took him to the POUM barracks, where Orwell immediately enlisted. “Orwell did not know that two months before he arrived in Spain, the [Soviet law enforcement agency] NKVD’s resident in Spain, Aleksandr Orlov, had assured NKVD Headquarters, ‘the Trotskyist organisation POUM can easily be liquidated’—by those, the Communists, whom Orwell took to be allies in the fight against Franco.”

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