Book Review: Triumph at Midnight of the Century: A Critical Biography of Arturo Barea - Explaining the Roots of the Spanish Civil War

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by Michael Eaude

Eastbourne, UK: Sussex Academic Press/Portland, Or.: International Specialized Book Services, 2011. Pp. xx, 244. Illus., gloss., notes, biblio., index. $34.95 paper. ISBN: 1845194691

Triumph at Midnight of the Century   is a biography of Arturo Barea, one of the more interesting minor figures in the first half of the Twentieth Century. 

A native of Madrid, Barea (1897-1957) rose from working class origins to become a literary critic and journalist of some merit, and for a time was a propaganda broadcaster for Radio Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, after which he fled to Britain, where he worked as a critic and broadcaster for the BBC.  He was the author of, among others, a very fine, literate autobiography in three parts, The Forging Of A Rebel (1970, 2001)  The first part, The Forge, is an highly readable account of his early life and education, and the third, The Clash, tells of his experiences during the Spanish Civil War, when he might easily have been shot by either the Nationalists of the Stalinist elements in the Republic.  But it is the second part, The Track, about his tour as a conscript in the army during the Riff War that is particularly good, indeed one of the most outstanding military memoirs by a common soldier to be found. 

In Triumph at Midnight of the Century, Eaude, a Gibraltar-born British specialist in Catalan history and culture, has attempted a “critical biography” of Barea, looking at his life and his works.  As such, the book is interesting, and at times insightful, but flawed, and by no means succeeds in bringing the man to life.  The author’s tone is blatantly partisan, for example, never calling the Spanish Nationalists anything other than “fascists” despite generations of scholarship by Stanley Payne, Gabriel Jackson, Hugh Thomas and others on the complexities of the Spanish Right, yet chiding Barea for using the “racist” term “Moros” when referring to Moroccans.  Eaude is also not well versed in the military side of the Spanish Civil War nor in military matters, and barely touches upon Barea’s unusual military experiences.

Despite these criticisms, Triumph at Midnight of the Century is an important read for specialists in twentieth century Spain or for anyone interested in Spanish Civil War.  

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


Buy it at Amazon.com




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