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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 Spain’s 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.

    I 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 dolorem”—”Oh 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 tangunt”—”They 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 fui”—he 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 art’s sake” led Guillermo Valencia of that tragic country, Colombia, to proclaim the need to : ”sacrificar un mundo para pulir un verso”—to 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, Valencia’s followers were outraged.

    I 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 literature—poetry, 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.