Adam Hochschild’s ‘Spain in Our Hearts’

25BOOK-master180Dwight Garner at The New York Times:

The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was not a splendid little war. It was an especially vicious one. Some 500,000 people died, most in combat or by political execution. A right-wing coup, led by Francisco Franco and backed by Hitler and Mussolini, toppled a democratically elected government.

It was, though, a strangely literary little war. We remember it today through classic accounts like Hemingway’s novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and Orwell’s memoir “Homage to Catalonia.” So many other significant writers and journalists poured into Spain, as observers or participants, it’s hard to keep track of them.

The French novelist André Malraux organized a squadron of volunteer pilots for the anti-Fascist resistance. The aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry reported for a Paris daily. Hemingway’s suite at the Hotel Floridain Madrid was a boozy hangout for a revolving rat pack of well-groomed foreign correspondents, including Martha Gellhorn, with whom he’d begun an affair. Dorothy Parker, Theodore Dreiser, Langston Hughes and W. H. Auden toured the fighting.

The war resonates visually as well. Robert Capa’s combat photographsare milestones; Picasso’s “Guernica,” painted after the carpet-bombing of that city, is among the most important artworks of our time.

Adam Hochschild’s excellent and involving new book, “Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939,” is not primarily a literary or cultural history. It’s about the moral appeal of the war, about the anti-Fascist and frequently pro-Communist idealism that made so many volunteers from the United States and other countries flood into Spain.

more here.