Friday, February 01, 2013

Book of the Month: The Battle for Spain

I've mentioned before that I am from a family of Wobblies. My grandfather and my grandmother's brothers were all card-carrying members of the IWW when they worked in the Pacific Northwest logging industry in the early years of the 20th Century. My grandmother's youngest brother was also a bit of a roustabout, a kind of soldier-of -fortune type, who spent a few years in some vague adventures in Nicaragua (with Sandino? Two generations are now gone and current family memory is not clear on this, but it seems likely) and then ended up in Spain as part of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.

He survived his ordeal in Spain but came home with some kind of lung disease that eventually killed him in 1957. I was only 12 when he died, so I really regret not getting the advantage of talking to him as an adult about his time in Spain. He was able to spin a few funny yarns to us kids about  exotic-sounding places like Catalonia, Andalusia, Guadalajara, but by and large, like most combat veterans, he was pretty reticent about the details.

But thanks to Uncle Bud, I have had an abiding interest in the Spanish Civil War, and that's how I came to recommend  The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor as this month's Book of the Month. Beevor is a historian with a sharp eye for detail and a narrative style that is readily accessible, and this book contains many facts that have only recently come to light, such as the incidents of seemingly odd behavior by the Communists. They don't seem so odd when we learn that behind them loomed the spectre of Stalin's paranoia and the fear that it inspired even on the faraway battlefields of Spain.

As I say, I've read a lot of books on the Spanish Civil War, and this is one of the very best. Highly recommended.

1 Comment:

the yellow fringe said...

I have not seen this book. I did read a few years ago a wonderful account of the terrible war in Spain. I tried to find the name now in the library online catalog, they have many but I cannot find the one. That civil war was so brutal. Sometimes at executions the whole town would turn out and all fire at the guy, the bodies were turned to hamburger from hundreds of wounds. I have done business in Spain, some of the people say their father was in this war, and he will not speak a thing of it. It was one big war crime.