Superb yet partial: Homage to Catalonia revisited
Nearly 200 people attended “George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia, 75 Years On,” a conference held this past March 2 by the International Brigade Memorial Trust in Manchester, UK. Among the audience were George Orwell’s adopted son Richard Blair and Quentin Kopp, son of Georges Kopp, Orwell’s commanding officer in Spain. The speakers included Richard Baxell (on the reaction of the British volunteers to the Barcelona May Days), Tom Buchanan (on the reception of Homage to Catalonia by the left in Britain), and Christopher Hall (on the Independent Labour Party volunteers who, with Orwell, enlisted in the POUM militia). Paul Preston, who had to drop out at the last moment, had his contribution read by IBMT Secretary Jim Jump. Professor Mary Vincent, the chair for the day, moderated the discussion.
If there was a consensus to emerge from all the contributions, writes Jim Jump, it was that Homage to Catalonia is a superbly written memoir of Orwell’s experiences as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War and an important testament of the start of his political journey that would lead him to write Animal Farm and 1984. That said, the book presents a partial and localized view of the civil war and thus, in the end, fails to explain properly the reasons for the defeat of the Spanish Republic.