Hodges follows her husband Paul Preston’s Caudillo biography (Franco, 1994) with a top-notch psychoanalytic interpretation of a long-lived and long-winded dictator.
When 83-year-old Francisco Franco died in 1975, he had ruled Spain for nearly 40 years. The Spanish people’s reaction? “A run on black cloth was matched by the flow of champagne,” writes Hodges, who depicts Franco’s dictatorial character as a product of feelings of inadequacy derived from his father’s neglect. Young Francisco grew up in a country still reeling from its losses in the Spanish-American war. At an early age, he exemplified the backwardness of the Spanish army, where an individual’s courage was placed above teamwork. In combat in Morocco, Franco excelled because he was stupid (needlessly exposing himself to enemy fire) and mean (mercilessly putting down indigenous revolts). Those two qualities merged into caginess during the Spanish Civil War. Franco entered the fight late, but secured help from fascist Germany and Italy early, securing his place ahead of the other Nationalists fighting against the legally elected Republican government. Hodges relates Franco’s subsequent brutality to his flawed psyche. A megalomaniac, he yearned for the pomp he received as head of state. Sexually insecure, he clamped down on the rights of women and attempted to impose an antiquated morality on a modern nation. Mocked and abused by his colleagues in the military academy as a teenager, he later oversaw the torture and brutal murders of political enemies. Ultimately, however, these traits caught up with Franco. Despite his self-styled glorious leadership, post–Civil War Spain was economically bereft and unfit to participate in WWII. Franco’s star fell as the Spanish tourist industry ascended in the ’60s. Television and vacationing foreigners prompted Spaniards to envision their future in new ways, all of which conflicted with the Caudillo’s ideas. Franco made an indelible mark on Spain, but its people have put him behind them.
An excellent treatise on the foibles of totalitarianism.