Saturday, 13 August 2016

Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell

Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell 
First published in April 1938 by Secker And Warburg. CSA Word audiobook narrated by Jeremy Northam published in July 2011.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Hands

This is my 1930s book for the 2015-16 Goodreads-Bookcrossing Decade Challenge which I have now completed. I have listed all my Decade Challenge reads at the end of this post after the book review.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the audio CD from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell's account of his experiences fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and a portrait of disillusionment with his early politics. Orwell's experiences include being shot in the neck by a sniper, and being forced into hiding as factions of the Left battled on the streets of Barcelona. Orwell entered Spain intending to gather an experience worth writing about, as well as to fight Fascism, and wrote Homage to Catalonia within months of his return. His honesty and bitterness make for an unparalleled account of his journey from belief and enthusiasm to a reluctant loss of ideals.
This audio edition includes two appendices, essays Orwell added to the book giving some background to the Spanish Civil War, and his biting analysis of the press response.'

I first listened to Homage To Catalonia in 2011 and chose to hear it again now mainly because I needed a 1930s book by the end of August to complete the Decade Challenge! The memoir is very much an account of the limited aspects of the Spanish Civil War that Orwell himself witnessed and, as such, I found I still don't really have much understanding of the many factions involved, the outbreak of acronyms and the full storyline of the conflict. This was a war with numerous armies fighting each other, not a simple 'people against fascism' as it is often portrayed. I was interested to learn that Orwell himself had little idea of the full politics when he first enlisted to fight, a naivete which nearly led to his arrest later on.

Jeremy Northam does an excellent job of the narration and his cultured tones suit the rather formal 1930s English language. Orwell has a minimalist writing style and comes across as an honest and earnest man, but I did often struggle to maintain my interest as parts of the book are quite dry. My having spent part of the last two winters in Catalonia was useful as I could easily envisage the landscapes and towns Orwell describes and I remembered seeing plaques and monuments commemorating some battles and events he mentions. I was saddened to realise that the fascist political ideas discussed in this book are rising again across Europe now, nearly eighty years later. And I saw the same 'Trotskyist' accusation as was leveled at the POUM and Orwell in the 1930s rolled out in a bout of name-calling against Jeremy Corbyn just last week. Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by George Orwell / War books / Books from England

The idea of the Goodreads-Bookcrossing Decade Challenge is to read one book from each decade from 1900 to the present day. This is the second year I have completed the challenge and I find it a great way to expand my book choices. You can see a list of last year's books here and of this year's books below. The titles are linked to my reviews either on Literary Flits or Stephanie Jane.

1908 - The Miner by Natsume Soseki
1916 - Myths and Legends of the Sioux by Marie McLaughlin
1928 - Glorious Apollo: A Novel of Lord Byron by E Barrington
1938 - Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
1940 - The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
1950 - The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese
1968 - Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov
1972 - The Abominable Man by Sjowall and Wahloo
1987 - Miami by Joan Didion
1997 - The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
2008 - The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier
2015 - Under the Udala Trees by Chinela Okparanta


  1. Thanks for your review of George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia! It reminds me that I really need to read this one although I'm not too much into non-fiction these days.

    On the other hand, I've been interested in the Spanish Civil War ever since reading Narratives of Loving Resistance by Austrian writer Erich Hackl. I also devoured A Manuscript of Ashes by António Muñoz Molina and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. And for early in September I've scheduled the review of In Diamond Square by Catalan writer Mercè Rodoreda with the major part of the plot set during the Spanish Civil War.

    Also thanks for drawing my attention to the Goodreads-Bookcrossing Decade Challenge! I never heard of it, but it's definitly an interesting idea.

    1. I love that you share so many books I've not discovered yet. I've only read Shadow Of The Wind from that list! Will look forward to your In Diamond Square review :-)

  2. If anyone wants to join the Decade Challenge this year, it runs from Sept 1st 2016 to Sept 1st 2017 and the official sign up thread is here:

    1. Thanks for the link! Just bookmarked it, so I won't forget.

    2. Great! I hope you enjoy the challenge and I can't wait to see what books you turn up