[Hochschild's] vivid descriptions capture both the highest moments of Spain’s Civil War — like the euphoria of liberated Barcelona — and the very lowest ones — like the despair of young soldiers in the trenches, infested with lice, surrounded by dead bodies, and soaked with rain and mud, trying to fight while sustained by a meager gruel of potatoes and dried beans ... Hochschild tells the story of this heady time with moving, well-paced prose exploring both international policy and intensely personal experiences ... Yet Hochschild goes further than merely telling the story. The book is enriched by his stepping aside and sharing the front line reports from the many writers who were in Spain ... [an] exceptional narrative of this often overlooked moment in history.
What makes his book so intimate and moving is its human scale. Mr. Hochschild follows the paths of a handful or two of American (and occasionally English) volunteers, as well as journalists, and tells the larger story of the war through their tribulations ... [Hochschild is] a generally sympathetic observer of this conflict’s journalists, but he can also be stern. He criticizes the herd mentality that led journalists to miss one of the war’s biggest stories — how Franco’s side was propped up with oil delivered by Texaco, at the behest of an executive with Nazi sympathies.
With all due respect to Orwell, Spain in Our Hearts should supplant Homage to Catalonia as the best introduction to the conflict written in English. A humane and moving book, it is well-paced and meant to be read rather than studied. It might be best described as a post-Cold War history of the Spanish Civil War. Spain in Our Hearts allows its reader to relive, from multiple angles, the emotional and intellectual logic of anti-fascism. That is, perhaps, what will make this book speak to our present moment.
It is the saga of many lesser-known figures that forms the center of this well-paced if sometimes earnest account and gives the book its resonance ... Hochschild’s heart is with the volunteers, who fought for a losing cause; and, whatever one’s feelings about the Republic, Hochschild’s account closes on a poignant note of mourning and remembrance.
In Spain in Our Hearts, [Hochschild] retells this familiar tale in an unfamiliar and convincing way — as a collective biography that strongly sympathizes with the Americans who fought for and wrote about Republican Spain but refuses to spare them from criticism. By assembling a well-chosen set of individual narratives, many about figures who are relatively unknown, he captures why so many people thought the fate of the world might be decided by who won the conflict in a poor, mostly rural country on the edge of Europe.
“Spain in Our Hearts is an account of some of the more noteworthy Americans involved in the conflict, almost all of them on the 'good' side thanks to the energetic recruitment efforts of the Communist International. The central narrative is much better executed than the historical treatment of the war. Mr. Hochschild shows more discernment and objectivity in dealing with the Americans, whom he is willing to understand, than in treating the Spanish, whom he generally caricatures.
After reading Hochschild’s book, it’s impossible to feel anything but admiration — and awe — at the bravery of Americans such as Berg, and deep disappointment that our country betrayed both them and the Spanish people.
The tragic story of the Americans in the doomed Lincoln Brigade — who bore some of the toughest fighting and heaviest casualties of any unit — comes vividly to life in Adam Hochschild's compelling Spain in Our Hearts, a long-overdue book that explores this long-overlooked conflict.
The title of this exemplary book comes from a quote by French writer Albert Camus. 'Men of our generation,' he wrote, 'have had Spain in our hearts … It was there that they learned … that one can be right and yet be beaten, that force can vanquish spirit, and that there are times when courage is not rewarded.' Hard lessons, but worth learning again from this moving and powerful account.
...a sweeping, suspenseful and somber chronicle of the Spanish Civil War that is organized around the experiences of about a dozen Americans. At its best, the book captures the idealism, courage and illusions of its subjects as well as the significance 'of the dark days that were just the beginning of the trauma and tragedy' that would become World War II.
Hochschild’s narrative complicates this picture, though he plainly shares his literary predecessors’ admiration for the Republican cause. Through judicious use of journals, letters, memoirs, contemporary newspaper coverage, and previous historical studies, Hochschild captures both the passionate, partisan views of particular combatants and the larger political currents that shaped their experiences. It’s a moving and useful investigation into the dangers and promises of idealism.
At its most compelling, Spain In Our Hearts follows a Swarthmore College senior as he joins in the battle for Madrid (fatally, as it turns out, much to the consternation of his bewildered parents back home); a 19-year-old girl from Kentucky who went to the war for her honeymoon; and a number of little-known journalists and writers. There’s a palpable sense of adventure in these people’s stories ... Less successfully, the book introduces us to Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell...Mr. Hochschild should have steered clear of them. His work is strong for its focus on 'ordinary' folk doing extraordinary things. Also, it has to be said the book caricatures the Nationalists ... Nonetheless, there is much to enjoy and learn from this work, which will appeal to both general and specialist readers.
One of Hochschild's most vivid portraits is of Bob Merriman, an economics professor from California who studied the Soviets but left Russia when Spain broke into civil war. His calm, steady leadership of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion serves as one of the book's primary narratives ... Hochschild, though sympathetic to the leftists, presents their flaws without excuse. Many of the Americans who went to the fight were either naive or willfully ignorant about the failings of the Spanish leftists and of their main benefactor, Russia.