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Synopsis

Homage to Catalonia is political journalist and novelist George Orwell's personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War. The first edition was published in 1938.

Orwell served as a private, a corporal, or cabo and— when the informal command structure of the militia gave way to a conventional hierarchy in May 1937— as a lieutenant, on a provisional basis,  in Catalonia and Aragon from December 1936 until June 1937. In June 1937 the leftist political party with whose militia he served (the POUM, the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification, an anti-Stalinist communist party) was declared an illegal organization and Orwell was consequently forced to flee or face imprisonment.


Having arrived in Barcelona on 26 December 1936 he told John McNair, the Independent Labour Party's representative there, that he had "come to Spain to join the militia to fight against Fascism." He also told McNair that "he would like to write about the situation and endeavour to stir working class opinion in Britain and France." McNair took him to the POUM barracks, where Orwell immediately enlisted.


At the front, Orwell was shot through the throat by a sniper on 20 May 1937 and nearly killed. He wrote in Homage to Catalonia that people frequently told him a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive, but that he personally thought "it would be even luckier not to be hit at all." After having his wounds dressed at a first aid post about half a mile from the front line, he was transferred to Barbastro and then to Lérida where he received only an external treatment of his wound.

On 23 June 1937 Orwell and his wife Eileen, with John McNair and Stafford Cottman, boarded the morning train from Barcelona to Paris. They safely crossed into France. Sir Richard Rees later wrote that the strain of her experience in Barcelona showed clearly on Eileen's face: "In Eileen Blair I had seen for the first time the symptoms of a human being living under a political terror."  On 13 July 1937 a deposition was presented to the Tribunal for Espionage & High Treason, Valencia, charging the Orwells with 'rabid Trotskyism' and being agents of the POUM.

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