After reading Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm I was curious to know more about what influenced Orwell to write so strongly against totalitarianism. It was then that I came across ‘Homage to Catalonia’ which is a non-fiction piece often considered as an autobiography. Orwell writes about his experiences in Spain where he enlisted himself to fight in the Spanish Civil War.
At times humorous, at times cynical and at times downright tragic, Orwell describes all that he saw and felt in Spain. The untrained soldiers, the shortage of supplies, outdated weapons and soldiers who didn’t even know what ideology they subscribed to. One can also infer from his account how democratic socialism appealed to him and how he developed a distaste for Stalinists.
The book is dry and requires a good background of the various factions taking part in the war. Even though are two appendices I couldn’t fully understand the allegiance of the different armies and the politics behind it all. Even after reading the book I still don’t know the specifics of the war. What I did appreciate was the way Orwell has written about the life in the front and the comradeship of the soldiers from different parts of Europe. Leaving the historical and political context, Homage to Catalonia is about the realities of a war written poignantly by a man who experienced it first hand. It is mistaken as a book on the Spanish Civil War.
Here’s an extract to give you a taste of the book
“The human louse somewhat resembles a tiny lobster, and he lives chiefly in your trousers. Short of burning all your clothes there is no known way of getting rid of him. Down the seams of your trousers he lays his glittering white eggs, like tiny grains of rice, which hatch out and breed families of thier own at horrible speed. I think pacifists might find it helpful to illustrate thier pamphlets with enlarged photographs of lice. Glory of war indeed! In war all solderies are lousy, at the least when it is warm enough. The men that fought at Verdun, at Waterloo, at Flodden, at Senlac, at Thermopylae – every one of them had lice crawling over his testicles.”