Comrades. Portraits from the Spanish Civil War

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9780002556354: Comrades. Portraits from the Spanish Civil War

A brilliant new portrait of the Spanish Civil War from our greatest historian of Spain.

A bravura new interpretation of the course, causes and characters of the Spanish Civil War, still the twentieth century’s bloodiest internal conflict

Analysis of the Civil War has always focused on victors and vanquished, but what of those who eschewed the struggle, those who stood apart from the carnage and chaos? Was there a Third Way?

Starting at the extreme right of the political spectrum and moving across it to the extreme left, using the emblematic lives of ten key individuals, Preston builds up an astonishingly vivid picture of how the War came to pass, and how those who started, suffered and stopped it were coloured by the experience

Here are brilliant psychological profiles of the communist firebrand La Pasionaria, of the canny falangist Primo de Rivera, of the aloof intellectual non-participant Salvador Madariaga, and of the enigma himself, Generalissimo Franco

Preston finds his finest prose style yet in this scintillating book

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Review:

1999 marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War, yet the international appeal of a singularly Spanish tragedy still holds strong. Where the conventional view beheld a classically romantic struggle between the forces of the Left and Right, the real story was of a knot of conflicts involving the Church, the military, the separatists and the working poor. Paul Preston seeks to establish a Third Spain, one populated by passionate people stranded by their neutrality who inevitably were despised by both "sides" who saw courage only in extremity. To this end he has produced a kaleidoscopic series of Plutarchian lives covering nine major protagonists, arrayed, broadly speaking, from Right to Left, with the writer and diplomat Salvador de Madariaga in the centre. To the far Right stands the terrifyingly ridiculous Jose Millan Astray y Terreros, who did more than anyone to pave the way for Franco. At the other end is Dolores Ibarruri, "La Pasionaria", a courageous and attractive orator for the Communist cause undone partially by her steely dedication to Stalinism. They act as bookends for Franco, a portrait which is essentially a distillation of Preston's own acclaimed 1993 biography Franco: A Biography, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Falange, his sister Pilar, Julian Besteiro, Manuel Azana and Indalecio Prieto. Unfortunately the fascination Preston displays with Millan Astray and Ibarruri inadvertently illustrates the problem at hand: it is always the flamboyant who catch the attention while the undemonstrative splash in their wake. He does his best, though, to redress the balance, and his redemptive essay on Prieto is arguably the pick of the bunch, going a long way to rehabilitating the reputation of a humane and misunderstood man. Comrades!, already a bestseller in Spain, emerges as more than its sum parts. It adds a necessary dimension to the crudely simplistic vision of victors and vanquished which was the conflict's legacy and it is imbued with a love for Spain that all those chronicled would have recognised, and which tragically informed their differences. -- David Vincent

From the Back Cover:

A brilliant new portrait of the Spanish Civil War by the prize-winning author of Franco.

This is a bravura new interpretation of the course, causes and characters of the Spanish Civil War, which remains the twentieth century's bloodiest internal conflict. Any analysis of the war has always focused on victors and vanquished, but what of those who eschewed the struggle, those who stood apart from the carnage and chaos ? Was there a third way?

Starting at the extreme right of the political spectrum and moving across to the extreme left, using the emblematic lives of ten key individuals, Preston builds up an astonishingly vivid picture of how the war came to pass, and how those who started, suffered and stopped it were coloured by the experience. Here are brilliant psychological profiles of the communist firebrand La Pasionaria, of the canny falangist Primo de Rivera, of the aloof intellectual non-participant Salvador Madariaga, and of the enigma himself, Generalissimo Franco.

"Paul Preston has an exceptional gift of lucid exposition, clarifying but not over-simplifying political situations often bafflingly complicated."
V. G. Kiernan

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