This is yet another fantastic book by George Orwell (IMHO). I just finished reading it and it is one of the few books which portrays the true chaos that ruled Spain during its civil war.
The book was first published in 1938, but didn't sell very well due to its controversial nature.
Before he died he left some notes which he wanted added to the book if it where to be published again, and indeed it has been published several more times since then.
This is an account of his experience in Spain whilst at the front. He arrived in Spain in 1936 and soon after he enlisted in the militia. He began training after a few weeks however during training they were never even shown a gun, which struck him as a little odd. He later found out that this was due to the partisan side having barely no weapons. It was not only the lack of weapons that was against the anarchists but also the lack of appropriate equipment and clothing.
He goes on to tell us about the front line. He describes the conditions they had to endure whilst in the trenches. There was a lack of arms and the few weapons they had were highly inaccurate. There was also a shortage of fresh water and food with water having to be carried by donkeys for miles.
During his time at the front he barely saw any fighting the few injuries which occurred were usually self inflicted (due to the bad state of the weapons) or random shots being fired by the fascists
Throughout the book we meet several people also fighting for the militia and we see how some people had no idea who they supported and where confused as to what political side they belonged to. Many of them were still boys with no former military training.
Whilst at the front Orwell is injured (by a random bullet) due to his carelessness. After having been transported to several hospitals and been told how lucky he was to have survived a bullet to the throat he eventually makes it back to Barcelona.
Whilst in Barcelona the POUM is declared illegal and most of its members where imprisoned or shot. Many had to hide away until they had sufficient documentation with which to leave the country, as was the case with Orwell.
Since he first wrote the book some of his opinions have changed as more facts about the war had come to light thus the notes added on later. However what remains evident is the confusion amongst the Spaniards about what exactly was happening in their country. As lots of the fighting occurred in the mountains and in isolated areas it was harder for news to travel thus adding to the confusion.
Even today a lot of what occured at the front is a bit of a mystery, as everything was so chaotic it is hard to decipher the mess that was the Spanish Civil War