BLOOD OF SPAIN: An Oral History of The Spanish Civil War by Ronald Fraser
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BLOOD OF SPAIN: An Oral History of The Spanish Civil War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Spanish Civil War has provoked a massive amount of historical writing, including several acknowledged classics. Fraser, the author of two previous oral histories of Spain, uses this technique here to restore the ""atmosphere"" of the struggle rather than to provide another straight narrative. Having interviewed over three hundred participants from all social levels and political persuasions--except ""leaders"" or those who have written memoirs--and from all relevant regions of Spain, Fraser integrates the oral material with his own words, and alternates between descriptions of specific ""episodes,"" profiles of individuals (""militancies""), and more panoramic views of events. This arrangement gives us three levels of access to the history. Monarchist student Juan Crespo, for example, first appears as one participant in the first battle outside Madrid, where, he recalls, he and his militia colleagues soon got fed up with the cold and the fleas on their ""outing."" Crespo reappears later, in a profile, where he discusses his ""ideals"" of Spanish unity (""The Catalan and Basque autonomy statutes were the last straw"") and strong leadership (""The Spaniard cannot be democratic"")--sentiments that still echo today--while admitting a sympathy for the Falangists, the fascist party behind France, and a lack of faith in God. ""Militancies"" like this one point up the difficulty of forming stereotypes in categorizing the various factions of each side, and especially of the less well-known right--Dionisio Ridruijo, a Falangist, explains that ""you could be a revolutionary and still be a conservative, a non-conformist and a conformist."" The larger motifs include recollections of adjusting to the daily round of civil war, the horror of mass executions, and the freedom/coercion of collectivization. The political and personal struggles between and among anarchists, socialists and communists in the Republican camp are already familiar, but these personal testimonies ring with authentic exasperation--one man recalls seeing anarchist unionists shoot a radio receiver over which an anarchist minister was appealing for peace among the left. A model of what can be done with oral history, and a valuable addition to an already rich literature.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1979
Publisher: Pantheon