14 MAY 1937, Page 22


The Siege of the Alcazar. By H. R. Knickerbocker. (Hutchinson. 7s. 6d.) Franco Means Business. By Georges Rotuand. (Paladin Press. as.) Red, White and Spain. By Nigel Tangye. (Rich and Cowan. 7s. 6d.) Death iu the Morning. By Helen Nicholson. (Lovat Dickson.


Three Pictures of the Spanish Civil War. Edited by Don Justo Medio. (Hutchinson. 2S. 6d.) Defence of Madrid. By Geoffrey Cox. (Gollancz. as. 6d.) The Epic of the Alcazar. By Geoffrey Moss. (Rich and Cowan. 9s.)

War in Spain. By F. White. (Longman. ts. 6d.)

Salud! An Irishman in Spain. By Peadar O'Donnell. (Methuen. 7s. 6d.)

NOTHING so clearly indicates the importance of the issues raised in the Spanish Civil War as the lies that have been told about it. When people really care, when they are really moved, they will put the telescope to the blind eye and lie like mad. If I were to go through the books at the head of this review and were to enumerate the misrepresentations, the unsub- stantiated hearsay, the hysterical acceptance of rumour for

evidence and profession of fact, I should fill up several columns. The first three books, Mr. Knickerbocker's, Mr. Tangye's and Franco Means Business (written, I am told, by the corre- spondent of the Figaro) sin worst in these respects. Mr. Knickerbocker's has a catchpenny title, for very few pages are devoted to the siege of the Alcazar. He is the gossipy

war correspondent, Francophile for no particular reason, and he writes the sort of news which dies the moment it is printed and is ten times dead by the time it gets into a book.

Mr. Tangye, trained in Fleet Street's self-congratulatory manner, has done much the same thing, and being the Evening News correspondent, he formed his judgements in London and

strangely enough found them confirmed in Salamanca. Full of hearsay stories about Red atrocities, these writers have—if

you examine them—only real evidence of Franco executions. Franco Means Business might be used as a hymn book by Mr.

Douglas Jerrold, but I see no other value in it. There are a

few facts about Franco's life, there is an apologia for the failure to capture Madrid and a queer note—the only interesting one—

on the strain of nostalgia in Franco's character. If sudden homesickness (inorrena) overcomes the Galician he might just drop the war and go home to Galicia. There is no doubt a dour charm and simplicity in General Franco's character ;

there is also, pace this author, no doubt of his mediocrity as a soldier and a political intellect.

Miss Nicholson's book has higher pretensions. It is largely a record of personal experiences at the beginning of the struggle in Granada. Miss Nicholson is an American and a baroness.

Her daughter is married to a Spaniard whose views the mother- in-law, naturally, reflects. She describes the horror of the early (Government) air raids which claimed the usual innocent victims and was close to many heartrending scenes. But she believes everything she hears to the discredit of the Government and, since Granada was won for Franco very quickly, she heard quite a lot. Here again the hearsay atrocity story abounds. The Government is described as a collection of gaolbirds, Communists and Russians who are to murder every man of intelligence and to destroy every good institution. Yet the poet Garcia Lorca was murdered by the Franco people in this city, numbers of professors have been shot for the sin of being liberal, cf. Professor Alas, and General Franco has publicly stated that he would bring the whole educational movement started by Francisco Giner de los Rios to an end. It was one of the few really enlightened things in Spain and was con- temptuous of politics. Reactionaries and soldiers have long hated this movement. No, Miss Nicholson's sympathy for suffering is good, her observation is interesting, but her general attitude is of a scrappily informed person. One can sympathise with her ; a happy expatriate life in Granada was spoiled.

Mr. Geoffrey Cox's book on the siege of Madrid takes the Government side, but is remarkable in sticking to the task set. He gives a most readable and objective account of the most impressive of the Spanish sieges. There has been heroism in all of them, but Madrid has the honour of turning the tide against an enemy possessed at the beginning of overwhelming superiority in arms. The Madrilefios are a grave and stoical people despite their superficial air of gaiety. " They set that famous table inscribed " Reserved for General Mola " and they made jokes about the tram that took you to the front line and the tube which might bring you to the surface behind the enemy trenches ; but they refused to be terrorised by bom- bardment and air raid and had the pleasure of making the Italians run. Mr. Cox's book sets out the story in its phases and his commentary is candid and thoughtful and worthy of the serious consideration of those who take an opposite view to his.

Mr. Geoffrey Moss's The Epic of the Alcazar is excellent and exciting narrative too, once it has got over its rather

skimped and tendencious political history. He has taken great pains to set out the siege in its daily stages as the defenders saw it. Both of these siege books illustrate the stoicism, fatalism and implacable pride of the Spaniards whatever their side may be. Mr. Moss writes as a soldier and lets the larger issues and deeper implications slide for fear of " intervention," but I wish more writers on Spain would imitate his and Mr. Geoffrey Cox's thoroughness and restraint.

Three possible views are given in the book edited under the pseudonym of Don Justo Medio. As he, in his summing-up, points out, both the pro-Franco and the pro-Government writers suffer from excessive idealisations of their own cause and excessive execration of their enemy's. Both writers leave out what is inconvenient to remember and I found neither really worth reading. The editor's summing-up, however, makes some useful points. There is no evidence, he says, to support the Franco argument that a proletarian revolution had been timed for August—or had been timed at all. And :

" It is to be feared that most unprejudiced foreigners will take a long time to be convinced that General Franco's coup, even when all allowance is made for the state of the country, was either necessary or advisable, or in any way morally justifiable."

Modem politics like modem social life smiles cynically at the word " moral "—but Don Justo's words are pretty strong for a moderate man. He sees, more doubtfully, a reign of perse- cution and intolerance in religion if the Government win ; and trouble with the autonomous regions if Franco wins. The latter is most certainly the dominating issue in Spanish politics. I find it hard to believe that Don Justo's appeal for sweetness, sense and light can mean anything to Spain. Exhaustion, spiritual as well as physical, may end the Spanish war, but not the voice of reason. It must be remembered that very little really divides the Falange from the Government militia. Don Justo is sensible about atrocities but Guernica had

not occurred when he wrote. I do not think it is correct, after the interview with Princess Eulalia a few weeks ago—which let the cat out of the bag as far as the Bourbon intrigues were concerned—and after The Nazi Conspiracy in Spain, to say that there is no evidence of long and international preparation

on the Franco side. It dates back two years at least, long before the so-called disorderly period of 1936.

Miss White's pamphlet War in Spain is admirable, for it ; an honest attempt to collect, analyse and compress all the facts about the course of the war. In 70 pages it gives the scene, the foreign intervention phases, notes on conditions in the two territories, accounts of the big sieges and so on. The whole picture is there in brief and with as little prejudice as is humanly possible. After the other books it is a pleasurc to read this one. She points out that it is difficult to get good

information from the Franco territories because the censorship is stricter.

The final book, Salud, is by the well-known Irish novelist, a cheerful, turbulent fellow who loves a revolution and a

scrap, wild in his enthusiasms yet shrewd in his judgements and redeemed by a human warmth of feeling. As a Catholic (of sorts), with a life-long interest in the peasant and the land, he seems to have plunged with an excessive zeal (whose excess he sees) into the Anarchist debates. He saw the barricades, he saw the burned churches, he saw also nuns and monks working for the revolution and, in some cases, heartily supporting it. As a picture of the rough and tumble, his is a good antidote to the anti-Red propagandists if only because he has the novelist's eye for the individual man and woman. Anyone who can render this struggle in human terms, instead of ugly screams of, panegyric and hate, is to be thanked. As for his views, well he has the merit of a persistent curiosity about his evidence. This is not perhaps a valuable book because it is a very personal hotch potch, but it is very likeable. And, after all, when the people have risen against an attempted tyranny they take on

a nobility which it is unwise to forget. V. S. PRITCHETT.