Malaga Burning: An American Woman's Eyewitness Account of the Spanish Civil War

Gamel Woolsey, Author
Gamel Woolsey, Author Access Publishers Network $22 (212p) ISBN 978-0-9648736-1-2
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
While its scars and memories still run deep, the Spanish civil war is undergoing a process of historicization. The Spanish monarchy has welcomed veterans of the International Brigades as part of a process of reconciliation, and literature previously interpreted in political contexts is now being analyzed from cultural and intellectual perspectives. In these contexts, the first American edition of Malaga Burning offers both a still-unfamiliar eyewitness view of the war and a window on its processing by contemporaries. Woolsey, an American poet, and her English husband, author Gerald Brenan, were vaguely of the Left, but not political activists. They moved to a Spanish village in 1932 to live cheaply and to get away from an increasingly turbulent Europe. War came to them with an anarchist uprising in the nearby city of Malaga in 1936. Brenan responded by producing a still-classic account of events, The Spanish Labyrinth. Woolsey, by contrast, tells the story of everyday lives amidst ""the pornography of violence""--a phrase originally hers. She depicts people, Spanish and English, caught in a conflict that triggered a spectrum of class, religious, political and regional hostilities over a century in the making. Her Spaniards in particular bear marks of literary constructions, perceived rather than understood by their portrayer. Woolsey's nuanced insistence that the war's violence and cruelty were not reflections of a particular ""Spanish character"" nevertheless remains a refreshing contrast to the crude cultural anthropology of Hemingway and his counterparts. Her clear, compelling style, meanwhile, highlights the analytical and descriptive capabilities of the declarative English sentence. Photos. (Feb.)
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