Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shock Delivered

Alvah Bessie's Men in Battle (1939) delivers a riveting non-fictional account of the Spanish Civil War from a soldier's or "worm's eye" (as he terms it) point of view. It goes perfectly well with Pablo Picasso's epic 1937 masterwork, Guernica. Here's one small sample:

'They brought the Fascist pilot in, and he was a Spanish youngster in a beautiful Italian flying suit, with a bullet wound in his arm and a broken face. The Spanish company commander in the sector where he landed had smashed him in the jaw in a fit of rage (and we all agreed that while this may have been humanly understandable, it was politically incorrect). . .'   ~~ From the 1977 Pinnacle Books version, page 273.
'[The pilot] was a native of Majorca and had been a pilot before the war. When the Fascists took Majorca, they had asked him to fly for them, and since there is nothing a pilot would rather do than fly, he had accepted. He had raided Barcelona many times. Like most pilots everywhere, he had no political convictions whatsoever, and it is relatively easy to drop high explosives on people you cannot see . . .' (Ibid.).
Guernica -- an impressively large painting (eleven feet high and between twenty-five and twenty-six feet long) -- was moved from New York City to Madrid in 1981 (Casón del Buen Retiro), then on to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in 1992. A tapestry version created by Madame J. de la Baume Dürrbach is temporarily on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas, USA (until March 8, 2015) -- I saw this version in the 1980s at United Nations headquarters. In the parlance of our day: WOW.

Today's Rune: Fertility.


Charles Gramlich said...

Easy to drop bombs on people you cannot see. truth, but isn't that such a horrible statement about humanity.

Luma Rosa said...

Hi, Erik!
I have not had the opportunity to see firsthand the work of Picasso, but his experience in a time of war gave her support to externalize all the fussing that reigned. Hence we find the politically incorrect war, like so many human acts, but when we are trapped like animals we are, we react in order to preserve our lives. Imagine being at war is also being stressed 24 hours and feelings touched upon in shock, do humans rebel sanity.
Does it have Portuguese version of the book mentioned?

Erik Donald France said...

Thank you for the comments -- much appreciated ~!

Agreed on both counts.

Luma, I couldn't find a Portuguese language version of 'Men in Battle,' but there are some of Bessie's works listed in the Brazilian version of 'Amazon' and Google (

Johnny Yen said...

I love the story of Picasso instructing that Guernica not be returned to Spain until democracy had returned to Spain.

A couple of years ago, I noticed that my son used Guernica as his desktop on his laptop. I assume this was inspired by the print that we have in our home, but he also remembers meeting members of the Lincoln Brigade when he was young-- I was involved in an organization for the vets years ago. And it probably doesn't surprise you that his politics are decidedly to the left

Erik Donald France said...

JY, huzzah ~~! I love it ~ a salute to y'all ~!

Adorably Dead said...

And now I need to road trip to Texas. I don't think I've ever seen a painting that huge in real life, much less one from Picasso.