Author Archives: Jon

The Spanish Civil War, 80 Years On: Canadian Connections

Serge Alternês sends us details of the following event…

Monday, July 18, 2016, 7:30pm
People’s Co­op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC

July 18, 1936: Fascist generals attempt a coup against the elected Popular Front government of Spain, plunging the country into three years of bloody war that captured the attention of the world, and became a microcosm of the international political and
social conflict leading to World War II.

July 18, 2016: Marking the 80th anniversary, three B.C. writers explore the significant Canadian participation in, and connections to, the Spanish struggle against fascism.



“The Ghosts of the Civil War”

This is an interesting article, just published on The Guardian. It includes an overview of the war, and the difficulty of coming to terms with its trauma. It mentions the importance of foreigners, even now, in keeping memories alive. And it notes the role of novels (such as Soldados de Salamina, which I write about here) in stoking a renewed conversation about the events and their impact.

Requiém por un campesino español


If Francisco Ayala’s La cabeza del cordero skirts the question of causes–and indeed, perhaps, of causality itself–preferring to see the civil war as an absurd irruption of violence that comes almost from nowhere, Ramón Sender’s Réquiem for un campesino español is, by contrast, all about origins. So much so, indeed, that his book, too, ends up stopping short of addressing the war directly.

Read more….

The New Yorker on the International Brigades

New York University (NYU) students in the Abe Lincoln Brigade pose during the Spanish Civil War, April 15, 1938.  (AP Photo)

New York University students in the Abe Lincoln Brigade pose during the Spanish Civil War, April 15, 1938. (AP Photo)

In this week’s New Yorker, Caleb Crain has a pretty good article on the International Brigades that both includes a fairly decent summary of the Spanish Civil War as a whole, and also mentions Orwell and Hemingway at some length: “Lost Illusions: The Americans who fought in the Spanish Civil War” (The New Yorker, April 18, 2016).

Welcome to SPAN430/530!


Welcome to SPAN430/530, “Novelas de la guerra civil española.” I’m very much looking forward to the class, and we’re reading some great books (including two Nobel prize-winners!).

Like every summer course, this will be a fairly intense experience. We will spend a lot of time together in a short time. I thought therefore it would be good to introduce the course ahead of time so you might be able to prepare a bit before we start.

I have put up a provisional syllabus. A couple of the novels are fairly long–the Hemingway in particular, but it’s a great book (some say, his best). If you were going to read ahead, then you might want to start on this, or perhaps on the Cela. On the other hand, there are some texts that are quite short: the Sender and Méndez, for instance.

You may want to find other ways to get hold of some of the books: the UBC bookstore is not always your cheapest option.

I have also put up further details and description, including information about your assignments. Note that one feature of the assignments is that (if you are an undergraduate student, i.e. in SPAN430 rather than SPAN530) you will be able to opt out of reading one of the books if you wish. So the reading load is not as onerous as it may seem at first glance. I certainly do not want this to be overwhelming.

I’d further point you to the fact that for our very first session we have a guest: Serge Alternês, who has recently published Live Souls, a book of photographs taken by his father, who was a volunteer ambulance driver during the war. I have written a brief review of this book. You don’t have to buy it, but it will be a great experience to listen to Serge present on it.

One more thing: you’ll notice that several of the books (Orwell, Hemingway, and Malraux) we are reading in English. As a result, the class discussion will also be roughly half in English (when we are dealing with these texts) and half in Spanish.

Finally, I should say that it would be ideal if we had a couple more students in the course, so if you have any friends looking for some summer credits, do encourage them to sign up. It should be fun. If they have any questions, they can get in touch with me.

Looking forward to meeting you all in a few weeks!