Homage to Catalonia

Homage to Catalonia

by George Orwell


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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: 9781618952738
Publisher: Bibliotech Press
Publication date: 07/12/2018
Pages: 174
Sales rank: 539,827
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

GEORGE ORWELL was born in 1903 in India. He served with the Imperial Police in Burma and worked various jobs before joining the Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell is the author of six novels (including Animal Farm and 1984) as well as numerous essays and nonfiction works. He died in 1950.

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Homage to Catalonia 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 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.
edgeworth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Homage To Catalonia is the last of Orwell¿s non-fiction books, an account of the time he spent as a volunteer soldier fighting for the Socialists in the Spanish Civil War. I naturally expected it to be his greatest book, partly because it was his last non-fiction one and partly because fighting in the Spanish Civil War is a much more romantic and exciting thing to do than living in poverty in Paris and London or examining industrial living conditions in northern England.The Spanish Civil War was a hugely complex, messy and above all political conflict, and is little known in the English-speaking world. All I really knew about it was the vague idea that it was a sort of dress rehearsal for World War II, and what I¿d picked up from Hemongway¿s vaguely boring novel For Whom The Bell Tolls. (By the way, I think it¿s ironic that Hemingway cultivated an image of himself as a burly he-man but was a mere journalist in the war, while Orwell is considered to have been a nerdy journalist but actually fought in it.) Orwell examines the conflict in some depth, but does so from a personal perspective and ¿ since he was writing for the audience of his time ¿ assumes some pre-knowledge about the war. It¿s primarily a private account with political commentary, rather than an examination of the war as a whole.Orwell originally went to Spain as a foreign correspondent, but witnessing his beloved Socialism fighting aginst Fascism, he felt compelled to sign up to the militia and risk his life for something he believed in. Whatever your thoughts on socialism (and as always, Orwell will dispel many myths and over-simplified beliefs Western readers have about communism) I¿m sure everybody will agree that this is a brave and noble thing to do. Along with his honesty and unparalleled writing ability, it¿s one of the reasons he¿s almost universally admired in all wings of politics.The socialist forces, at the time, were a rag-tag group of various political parties, unions and militias which had joined together to fight the Fascist dictator Franco, whom I believe had overthrown the monarchy (again, Orwell assumes some existing knowledge of the war, so I may be wrong.) He joined a socialist party called the P.O.U.M, and was dispatched the front lines in the Catalonian mountains. Orwell gives an excellent account of the unadventurous realities of trench warfare, in which the outdated equipment of both sides meant that there were few battles, and most of the soldiers¿ time was spent trying to keep warm.While on leave in Barcelona he had the bad fortune (or good fortune, from a reader¿s perspective) to be present for the outbreak of street fighting in Barcelona, where various factions on the socialist side turned on each other ¿ a civil war within a civil war, if you will. This did much to disillusion Orwell about the cause he was fighting for, but he remained in Spain nonetheless, operating under the ¿lesser of two evils¿ mantra. Shortly after returning to the frontlines he was shot in the throat by a sniper ¿ an event he describes with uncharacteristic emotion ¿ and returned to the cities to find the mood ever darker. The P.O.U.M. was being unfairly blamed for the Barcelona fighting, and militia members were being demonised and marginalised. Shortly afterwards the government began to arrest them, and Orwell was forced to flee the country. This final quarter of the book, as his friends are thrown in prison and he fears for his life and eventually has to return to England with bittersweet memories, is the strongest section of Homage To Catalonia.The weakest section is the chapters detailing the political rivalry between the internal factions of the socialists. They were doubtless important at the time, given the level of misinformation and propaganda Orwell had to dispel, and Orwell himself even admits that they can be tedious and dull to follow, ¿like the names of generals in a Chinese war.¿ I once felt that Orwell could write about almost anything and make
HistReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have picked up this book several times in the past but never read it. Recently, I decided to give it a try. I like George Orwell's writing style and was interested in learning about the Spanish Civil War. Aside from struggling through a book which is a collection of journalistic criticisms of art I am not familiar with, I have only read the classic fictional offerings by Orwell.For the most part, Homage to Catalonia was a riveting read and he did a fair job with conveying the lack of clarity borne from the numerous factions fighting a common enemy. The turmoil of political goals knows no wing, even when faced with an enemy to unite against. Who knew the Communists, Socialists, and Anarchists of the 1930s would be so radically different? In spite of being a political junkie, I most enjoyed the retelling of the "battle field" escapades. Not to promote grandiose illusions of his part in the fight against Fascism, Orwell really illustrates the boredom he encountered and the monotony he and his comrades experienced with a near constant rain of bullets.What was less interesting (although historically important) was his chapter providing a vague understanding between the factions and how internecine battles, both in the press and in guerrilla warfare, crumbled an effective battle against the standing government and dashed any hopes of a seamless utopia after the war. Not reading this book for academic purposes, I skimmed the chapter which includes numerous citations and examples of slanderous press reporting about either side.
technodiabla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I admire Orwell's journalism and his approach to getting the real story; Homage to Catalonia is a perfect example. I found the story of the trenches and the Barcelona uprising fairly interesting and well-written. His political analysis is extremely complex and gets bogged down in details and acronyms that aren't entirely relevant to today's reader's understanding of the situation. That said, I did find his views on how journalism and the global media forces influenced the war to be insightful and very relevant. Media has changed quite a bit-- not for the better in many cases. This books makes for interesting fodder to compare and contrast and pros and cons of different forms of media and regulatory models. HtC is an important book and worthy of study, but not an enjoyable read in my opinion. 3.5 stars.
FordStaff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book captures humanity in all its majesty and horror from the insightful perspective of George Orwell. Why on earth Animal Farm was required reading in my high school years instead of this vastly superior book is baffling to me, particularly because Homage to Catalonia displays the same misuses of power as Animal Farm except in the far more convincing and terrifying coldness of reality. Never before have I ever cringed as much at the injustices of history as at those told from Orwell¿s perspective in the Spanish Civil War. And yet George Orwell¿s account still leaves room for hope and even inspired out loud laughter more times than any other book I have read (almost never do even for those books which have this as a primary objective). For insight into the human condition there are few better than George Orwell and I will unswervingly suggest this book to every single human being I encounter who will tolerate it.
markfinl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is probably my least favorite George Orwell book, but it's not a bad book, but it has lost its relevance. Seventy some years later, the details of the Spanish Civil War don't have much interest for a modern reader.
br77rino on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Orwell's recounting of his days as a soldier with the Spanish fighting against Franco, on the one hand, and even a bit against the Communists, on the other.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love history, but I tend to shyaway from war narratives; I getlost in the details about weaponsand strategies. Homage to Cataloniais a different kind of war narrative,the story of a man who never glamorizedwar (except, perhaps, when he enlisted).I loved the chapters about day-to-daylife. I can just see the generals andadmirals telling Orwell, "Don't tell themthat!" I found myself wanting to postchapters to young American men I know servingin Iraq and asking if Orwell's experiencesin the Spanish Civil War rang true for them.Recommended.
booklove2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Holy crud!! George Orwell was shot in the neck just missing his windpipe in the Spanish Civil War. Imagine... this happened BEFORE he wrote '1984'!! What if the world did not have '1984'?!?! It is an essential piece in literature and I'm sure the entire world would be just like his cautionary book if he had never written it.Anyway, I don't think I ever heard about the Spanish Civil War in school (no surprise there). This was a very interesting and readable account of it though. The only thing is, I wish there were more explanatory foot notes!! Orwell really wants to get the truth out on certain events that happened in Spain. He really doesn't pick a side (other than anti-fascist) until one faction within the anti-fascist side is used as a scapegoat. All of this is just so new to me... in school I was taught the same basic things every year (ie: 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue) hence making history very boring for me in school. So it is really interesting when I read books about historical events that I didn't know about. This one is just so readable and interesting (and he even finds the humor in such horrible situations!) Reading it is like sitting down with a veteran and hearing the words right from Orwell himself. He is also a huge book lover -- he was laying in the trenches close to the enemy at one point and reading a book... while both sides are shooting at each other. I wish George Orwell was involved in all the major wars so he could have written a book for each war. Just as long as I was guaranteed that he would be alive to eventually write '1984'!!!
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell is good enough that I'm glad I read it but not so good that I'd recommend it to friends who don't have a specific interest in Orwell's life. In 1936, a young Orwell went to Barcelona to report on the Spanish Civil War. Within a few days of arriving, he'd joined a socialist militia and went to the front. I enjoyed the clipped, stiff-upper-lip writing style that had few superfluous words and I learned a bit about a historical event I hadn't heard much about before. Orwell's experiences dodging rats in the trenches and his near-arrest by the corrupted leadership of the movement he'd once supported no doubt informed later works like 1984 and Animal Farm, and I liked seeing what helped shaped one of this century's most famous writers. Still, the actual political situation was poorly explained and the writing was not as vivid as it could've been. I give it three stars.
alexgalindo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this novel Orwell achieves an aesthetic rarely matched in even the most vivid fiction. His dry humor and honesty dances right on beat with his romanticism of radical politics.(a romance I share myself.) Staged in the critical years of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell doesn't merely write of the events of the day, he fully participated in them. A remarkably inspiring piece of literature.
seisdedos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In his second major work of non-fiction Orwell takes some of the ideas defined in `Wigan Pier¿ and takes it a huge step forward. `Homage to Catalonia¿ describes Orwell¿s involvement in the Spanish Civil War as a private and an officer. His experiences in Spain are arguably the defining moments of his life and mold his unique brand of anti-communism. Orwell sees for the first time in his life `Stalinism¿ in action. He gradually becomes aware of a clear double standard in the provisioning and equipment of forces friendly with the Soviet Union and the militias outside the control of Stalin and his allies. Orwell¿s anti-fascist idealism in the early days of the war gives way to the realization that Russian involvement in the civil war is less about defeating Franco¿s military uprising and more about Stalin securing a hegemonic position among Spain¿s left-wing factions. His suspicion of communism is solidified when in Barcelona he witnesses the suppression of anarchist-affiliated workers by the pro-Soviet police force. This book and 'Wigan Pier' are indispensable in not just comprehending the tumultuous events that shaped Orwell¿s ideas and beliefs but also give us a good overview of Europe before the outbreak of World War II.
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USGrant More than 1 year ago
a classic
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