Book Review: Spain's Martyred Cities: From the Battle of Madrid to Picasso's Guernica


by Martin Minchom

Brighton, Eng.: Sussex Academic Press / Portland, Or: ISBS, 2015. Pp. xxiv, 298. Illus., biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 1845197836

A French Journalist’s Look at the Opening Acts of the Spanish Civil War

Historian Minchom, who has done extensive work on the foreign reporters who covered the Spanish Civil War, examines the work of French journalist Louis Delaprée (1902-1936). Delaprée covered the first months of the conflict for Paris-Soir, and Minchom’s account of his work not only tells us something about the man, contemporary journalism, but also the war itself -- particularly the aerial bombardment of civilians – and the creation of Picasso’s Guernica.

Minchom works with Delaprée’s original dispatches, including some which were never before published, shelved for political reasons or mere carelessness, to give us a narrative account of events. He frequently compares the original and published versions of Delaprée’s and includes the man's lengthy essay, The Martyrdom of Madrid, a reporter’s-eye view of the opening stages of the protracted struggle for that city.

An objective reporter, Delaprée began working in Spain from the insurgent’s side, but was forced to flee because his objective reporting did not suit the Nationalist leadership. He ran into the same problem while reporting from the Republican zone. He coverage of Nationalist air attacks on Madrid and life in the battered city were widely praised, but when he covered the illegal executions of alleged “fascists” at Paracuellos and other atrocities, he became unwelcome.

Delaprée had to seek refuge with the French diplomatic authorities in Spain. Put on a diplomatic flight to France, Delaprée’s plane was shot down by aircraft, and he died of injuries sustained when it crashed; the attacking aircraft were never properly identified, and could easily have been either Nationalist or Republican, given that Delaprée was considered an enemy by both sides.

Minchom concludes with a discussion of how Delaprée’s work helped lead to the creation of Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica.

A volume in the series “Canada Blanch / Sussex Academic Studies on Contemporary Spain”, Spain’s Martyred Cities is a valuable read for anyone interested in the Spanish Civil War, war correspondents, and even Picasso’s Guernica and the influence of war on art.


Note: Spain’s Martyred Cities is also available in hardback and e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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