Professor, Nun And "Average Irishwoman's" Ideas
Catalonia Infelix. By E. Allison Peers. (Methuen, 10s. 6d.) Andlhen the Storm. By Sister M. Monica. (Longrnans, 6s.) Storm Over Spain. By Mairin Mitchell. (Seeker and Warburg, 6s.)
Reviewed by BERNARD BASSETT, Si.
' In these three books, a University Professor, an American Nun, and "an average iri,hwoman" set out to supply us with the necessary background without which the present struggle in Spain is unintelligible. As might be expected, the University Professor is at once the most thorough and the most dignified.
Professor Allison Peers goes back to the earliest days of Catalan history, and in a succession of masterful chapters, traces the development of Catalonia from the days before Hannibal, to the days after the present war. His survey is made more valuable because in the English language it is unique. Though the history is of necessity greatly compressed, the author succeeds in gising plenty of detail, and a considerable amount of useful matter on Catalan culture as well. Having followed Catalonia through its days of greatness, and watched it succumb to Aragon, Castille and Madrid, the reader emerges in the nineteenth century with a far better understanding of the meaning of Catalan Independence in the present struggle.
It is here that Professor Peers calls attention to the two contradictory movements developing together in Catalonia, the Nationalist Movement, and the Proletarian Revolutionary Movement. The opposition between these two is responsible for much of the confusion that has settled on Barcelona in these last tragic years. The learned author is able to point out to the uninitiated the workings of these rival principles in recent events.
In his last chapters, and not before, does Professor 'Peers reach the actual fighting. He speaks with authority, and his comments on the attitude of the Revolutionaries towards religion is a striking condemnation of those unhappy delegates who visited Barcelona to study the religious situation early in the present year.
Professor Peers ends with a prophecy. Whichever side wins, Catalonia will suffer more than any other part of Spain. The independence of Barcelona is doomed for the present, but the learned author is sure that there can be no lasting peace in Spain until Catalonian autonomy is recognised.
Sister Monica's book is very different from Catalonia Infelix. It is one of those odd rambling stories, supported by quaint verse and neat pen-sketches, which never seems to be leading anywhere until you reach the last page and look back. You then find that you have learnt a great deal.
Sister Monica presents a sympathetic picture of Spanish life before the Revolution, and introduces shrewd comments on the state of the clergy, the nobility and the poor. But surely she is at fault when she suggests that the Duke of Alba is an Englishman, and a Protestant.
Storm Over Spain. by Mairin Mitchell, is far less satisfactory than Sister Monica's book. The writer was an eye-witness, but she appears to rely on the Manchester Guardian and "Behind the barricades" for her facts. She is one of those writers who accept the story of "Bloody Badajoz," and who quotes the remark of a Socialist speaker in the Cortes as evidence that the Jesuits owned one-third of the wealth of Spain. Yet she admits that the Left extremists have also done many regrettable things, and points out that she has heard the Jesuits quite well spoken of in parts of the country.
Apart from an attempt to draw a parallel between the British landlord in Ireland and the grandee in Spain, Mairin Mitchell has little of interest to add to the literature•of the Spanish war.
News Of Red Spain
Correspondent in Spain. By Edward H. Knoblaugh. (Sheed and Ward, 7s. 6d.)
Reviewed by PAUL McCiUIRE Knoblaugh went to Madrid, in February, 1933, as a correspondent for the Associated Press. His book is in that tradition of journalism, objective and detached. It is a plain tale from Madrid, and one of the most frightening books I have ever read. One understands from it what anarchy really means.
It was Knoblaugh to whom Largo Caballero gave a once famous, now conveniently forgotten interview in 1934: " Azona will play Kerensky to my Lenin." Knoblaugh was on personal terms with most of the leaders of Right, Centre, and Left. He watched the march or events to inevitable catastrophe. He reviews the election of February '36, with its paradoxical result (the electoral code was "essentially a trick ' system " " invented by the Left in 1932 so that it would always. stay in power").
He describes the Terror, when drunken militiamen raged into cafes and dragged away every Spaniard " who could not show membership in one or other of the Front Parties." He watched, each morning, the cartloads of corpses followed to the morgues by people seeking relatives and friends. He saw the government, when Franco proclaimed a safety-zone for women and children, immediately shift their troops and munitions into it. He records the bombing of the British Embassy by a Red airplane. And here is explanation, at last, of the cables from Red Spain.
No 'news at all gets through unless it " fits like a jig-sins' piece in the intricate pattern of Popular Front policies."
The news-correspondent receives much attention and courtesy while he faithfully repeats what propaganda gives him. But if he questions, hesitates, the screws go on : his copy is stopped or delayed, his passes arc cancelled, he cannot get safe-conducts, he has difficulties about food and shelter. If he is stubborn, as Carney of the New York Times was stubborn, he is invaded by militiamen. Carney. Winn and Allwork of Reuter's (Allwork was arrested seven times before he finally fled), Knoblaugh himself were, in effect, driven from the country. "Jane Anderson, American freelance, escaped a firing squad by a hair."
" Few of the old guard-the correspondents who worked in Spain on regular assignment long before the war are in Loyalist territory now." They knew too much.