Dedication || 1: Early Years: Distant Spain
I believe, alas, that I am unique in
one way. I am the only living Hispanist who witnessed the drama of Spains second
republic, from the fall of the monarchy to the Civil War, during which I was evacuated.
Several distinguished living historians have written about that period, but they were
either nor born or were children at the time of the Civil War. I deeply admire the way
they have pieced documents together with great industry and skill to write detailed
accounts of the period. They have urged me to write this account of my experiences, since
I can convey my personal impressions.
therefore do so, feeling like Æneas ordered by Queen Dido to tell the story of the fall
of Troy. As Book II of the Æneiad says in the
opening line: Infandum regina jubes renovare doloremOh
Queen, you ask me to renew an unspeakable sorrow, and all the pain has come back as
I describe the fall of the Spanish Republic. Or later Sunt lacrimæ rerum, et
mentem mortalia tanguntThey are the tears of things and mortal
events wound the mind. Some of my best friends died in the Civil War. Mens
meminisse horret my mind shudders as I remember. Writing this book
has revived the bitter memories of those days, when I was lucky to escape with my life.
While it is enlightening to read accounts of the political and military events of the
period, the war was a human tragedy like the fall of Troy. To carry the comparison
further, may I suggest that just as Æneas crossed the sea and ended up in Italy, so I
crossed the sea and ended up in California, the Italy of the United States. However, there are two important
differences between Æneas and me. He could say Pars magna fuihe took a
great part in the events, while mine was minimal, he was a soldier while I was an
intellectual, and this book will be different in that it pays special
attention to Spanish intellectuals.
The Civil War changed my life. It is
the reason I ended up at Stanford University. More significantly, it changed my outlook
completely. French culture was my original field, and I went to Spain in 1931 with a deep
affection for my Oxford mentors like Salvador de Madariaga who gently pushed me into
Spanish studies, but with the supercilious belief that Spain was a second-rate France.
Africa began in the Pyrenees, and indeed in those days it seemed backward. Slowly my
outlook became less France-centric, and I began to see things from the Spanish viewpoint.
Since then my research has dealt largely with the conflict of worldviews among countries,
one of the basic causes of war.
My attitude toward French culture
became more discriminating. Before I had
been indoctrinated by my French instructors
to believe that French culture was paramount in the world. I had sneaking doubts about
this when I got to the period of Baudelaire, Cocteau, and all the -isms: impressionism,
cubism, dadaism, etc. I came to the conclusion that there were two modern French
traditions. There was the serious one of Auguste Comte, with his creed of Order and
Progress, and, Above All Else, Love. I have written favorably about the influence of
his Positivism on Latin America. In Spain a similar role was played by Krausismo; both
philosophies derived from Kant.
The other was the revolutionary one
in politics and in the arts. The bloody call of the Marseillais to the day of glory seems
tragically out of place in Spain. The revolutionary artistic creeds were also misguided
and misleading. They also had an influence in Latin America. The once fashionable doctrine
of art for arts sake led Guillermo Valencia of that tragic country,
Colombia, to proclaim the need to : sacrificar un mundo para pulir un
versoto sacrifice a world to polish a verse. When in a talk in the
Athens of America, as Bogotá liked to call itself, I condemned this indifference to
the real world, Valencias followers were outraged.
would not be surprised if this report on Spain also raised hackles (which, it should be
remembered are on the throats of noisy, bird-brained cockerels). Silly French art fashions
also infected Spanish authors and artists, who wished to prove that they were au courant
with the latest Parisian fashion. Picasso and his ilk were despicable individuals and
crazy artists. That we take them seriously is evidence that we are culture snobs,
frightened to assess them honestly. The same is true of the writers who viewed themselves
as revolutionaries, like Federico García Lorca who lived in the Residencia de Estudiantes
as I did. I hold that whole tradition guilty of confusing the republican cause and thereby
weakening it. In brief, there were two republican Spains: the Spain of serious and
responsible thinkers like José Ortega y Gasset, Salvador de Madariaga and Gregorio
Marañón, and the Spain of the crazy men. Unfortunately these crazies shock people into
paying them attention, whereas the other seem dull to the ordinary sensation seeker. I
knew most of these people, and my experience with them confirms my judgment.
It was also fashionable to despise
journalists. Many Oxford students who fought in the International Brigades boasted that
they never read a newspaper. As a schoolboy I was angered that one teacher tempered a nice
report on my work with the comment a bit of a journalist. As my respect for
literary figures declined, my respect for journalists grew correspondingly. The writers
for the Madrid newspaper El Sol were responsible
and well-informed, as well as excellent writers. They served the republic with admirable
devotion. Since coming to Stanford, much of my research for first the
Hispanic American Report and then the
World Affairs Report was based on newspapers. I
hold that the traditional forms of literaturepoetry, the novel, and the
theater have ceased to be relevant and that the Nobel Prize for Literature should be
awarded to historians, social scientists, and journalists, many of whom are superb
writers. After all, Winston Churchill got the prize, Burnett Bolloten, to whom this book
is dedicated, began his career as a journalist.
There is a mythology about the
Spanish Republic and the Civil War. Eccentrics like García Lorca and Picasso are cult
objects, and above all there is a complete misrepresentation of the Lincoln Battalion,
raised in this lore to Lincoln Brigade. They were in fact Stalinists, but they are
depicted as fighting for a Western-style democracy. It is politically incorrect to tell
the truth about them, both in Spain and in this country. In the new monarchical Spain (!)
the survivors have been received as heroes and made honorary citizens. In this country the
misrepresentation was petrified when in 1998 a plaque was dedicated on the University of
Washington campus praising them as fighters for democracy. Were there no historians brave
enough to denounce this travesty? These academics should study the works of Burnett
Bolloten, but they probably will not. My report may displease them, but so be it.
This book is an indictment of the
Paris of la belle époque, which collapsed in
World War I, and of
les années folles which
followed it. It attracted international bohemians like Hemingway and many Spaniards like
Picasso, who attracted by the inexpensive life and -isms which flourished there, strutted
around wearing the latest artistic fashion but lacked or even despised the informed
responsibility which is essential in building a viable state. They were very different
from the earlier afrancesados who followed the
great tradition of the philosophes, who
represented the great eighteenth-century tradition out of which came modern world
represented by the United States and modern England.
Men like Ortega y Gasset exemplified the informed
responsibility so necessary to build a modern state, but they failed in their
attempt to steer the republic. They were betrayed, and Spanish democracy collapsed.