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By George Orwell
Penguin Classics £8.99
Reviewed by Cardinal Cox


Homage to Catalonia (Penguin Modern Classics) available at

George Orwell Books

Write Dope on Pnuk part 30

This book is a personal memoir of the Spanish Civil War from December 1936 through to the summer of 1937. Initially Orwell trains in Barcelona, and goes to the front with the POUM (Independent Marxist) militia. At this time the Republican forces comprised of various militias drawn from the trades unions or political parties. As well as POUM there was the PSUC (largely the official Communists) and the CNT/FAI (the Anarchists) and the International Brigades of foreigners, mostly Communists. At the front Orwell suffers the hardships of his fellow volunteers, the privations, the lice, the boredom and the occasional flurries of desperate fighting.

In May he was back in a changed Barcelona where, when the officials attempted to seize the telephone exchange from the CNT, sporadic street fighting broke out between the factions.

Later wounded (he was shot through the neck) he returns to Barcelona just as the now Communist dominated government outlawed the POUM. Avoiding arrest, he attempts to aid his imprisoned Belgian commanding officer, but to little affect. He and his wife only just escape Spain, and Orwell is convinced of the folly of the Communists’ actions, but also in the cause of fighting the Fascists. He returns to a sleepy Britain that he is sure will only be roused by its own bombardment. As the book was first published in 1938, that strikes as a chilling pronouncement.

Previous to this book Orwell had had such books published as ‘Down And Out In Paris And London (1933)’, ‘Burmese Days (1934)’ – inspired by his time in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma – and ‘The Road To Wigan Pier (1937)’ – a description of the poverty in Northern England at the time.

‘Homage To Catalonia’ serves as a reminder of the optimism of the revolution that ran parallel to the Civil War with the workers occupying industry in Republican areas. It also shows at first hand the betrayal of this by the Russian controlled Communists, who saw that a Socialist Spain would push Britain and France closer to the Fascist axis.


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