Monday, May 08, 2006

Orwell Flees Spain

I suppose I have failed to convey more than a little of what those months in Spain meant to me. I have recorded some of the outward events, but I cannot record the feeling they have left me with. It is all mixed up with sights, smells, and sounds that cannot be conveyed in writing: the smell of the trenches, the mountain dawns stretching away into inconceivable distances, the frosty crackle of bullets, the roar and glare of bombs; the clear cold light of the Barcelona mornings, and the stamp of boots in the barrack yard, back in December when people still believed in the revolution; and the food-queues and the red and black flags and the faces of Spanish militiamen; above all the faces of militiamen--men whom I knew in the line and who are now scattered Lord knows where, some killed in battle, some maimed, some in prison--most of them, I hope, still safe and sound. Good luck to them all; I hope they win their war and drive all the foreigners out of Spain, Germans, Russians, and Italians alike. This war, in which I played so ineffectual a part, has left me with memories that are mostly evil, and yet I do not wish that I had missed it. When you have had a glimpse of such a disaster as this--and however it ends the Spanish war will turn out to have been an appalling disaster, quite apart from the slaughter and physical suffering--the result is not necessarily disillusionment and cynicism. Curiously enough the whole experience has left me with not less but more belief in the decency of human beings. And I hope the account I have given is not too misleading. I believe that on such an issue as this no one is or can be completely truthful. It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan. In case I have not said this somewhere earlier in the book I will say it now: beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact, and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events. And beware of exactly the same things when you read any other book on this period of the Spanish war.

And then England--southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world. It is difficult when you pass that way, especially when you are peacefully recovering from sea-sickness with the plush cushions of a boat-train carriage under your bum, to believe that anything is really happening anywhere. Earthquakes in Japan, famines in China, revolutions in Mexico? Don't worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning, the New Statesman will come out on Friday. The industrial towns were far away, a smudge of smoke and misery hidden by the curve of the earth's surface. Down here it was still the England I had known in my childhood: the railway-cuttings smothered in wild flowers, the deep meadows where the great shining horses browse and meditate, the slow-moving streams bordered by willows, the green bosoms of the elms, the larkspurs in the cottage gardens; and then the huge peaceful wilderness of outer London, the barges on the miry river, the familiar streets, the posters telling of cricket matches and Royal weddings, the men in bowler hats, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square, the red buses, the blue policemen--all sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs.

6 Comments:

Blogger KidKawartha said...

durrati-
Picked this up at dailykos, thought you might like it-
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/5/8/9599/21370
Peace!

11:18 PM  
Anonymous WhattheH said...

Orwell was a master wordsmith. His way with descriptive narrative is amazing. I read this several times, then closed my eyes and could almost see the train rolling through the countryside.. The differnce between the war imagery and the trip home is stark and impelling.
I often wonder who will step forward and perform the same service for the current atrocities being perpetrated on the world stage. Another good post Durrati, thanks.,

5:20 AM  
Blogger durrati said...

Thanks for the link Kid, I've never read that book! It is availble to read online if you want the link....

What,

I am not sure that there is anyone in the world with Orwell's command of language, but if you find one please let me know. And I promise the same ;)

2:50 PM  
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