HOMAGE TO THE SPANISH EXILES by Nancy Macdonald

HOMAGE TO THE SPANISH EXILES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Macdonald, now 76 and the widow of famed essayist and editor Dwight Macdonald, tells the moving story of 500,000 Spanish exiles who fled to France in March, 1939, of the half-dozen American committees formed to send aid to them, and of the Spanish Refugees Aid fund she and her husband helped found in 1952 and which they co-chaired for many years. Much of the story is told in words taped by Macdonald on her many postwar visits to the 120,000 survivors or from letters of the exiles written to the Macdonalds and other members of SRA. Macdonald fell in love with Spain during a visit in the early 30's. Then came the Civil War and three years of horror, political confusion, and passionate support of the Loyalists by numbers of idealistic Americans and by the Soviet Union. The triumph of the Nationalists, supported by fascist Italy and Germany, left the Loyalists only Catalonia and the Basque Provinces in which to breathe before their ultimate flight to France. During the war itself, the Macdonalds helped form relief groups that sent help to the exiles who were in and out of detention camps, prisons, or were deported to Dachau, Buchenwald or Mauthausen. The plight of the displaced Loyalists--who still could not return to Franco's Spain--only worsened after WW II. The story of SRA involves celebrated Europeans and Americans, including Hannah Arendt, cellist Pablo Casals (who was a big-hearted but much too slippery fish to be seduced into a concert for SRA), James Merrill, Albert Camus, Bruno Bettelheim, Alexander Calder, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., among many others. Intimate suffering, punctuated by little magazine politics, donor-chasing, the mechanics of relief work, and with rich expressions of gratitude from exiles.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Insight/Human Sciences