I love reading, especially proper books that you can touch and smell.
I read to relax, to forget, to travel, to learn.
Normally, the book I pick up depends on my mood that day or at that moment or how tired I am, so I tend to trail several of them at once and thus take ages finishing them.
Here’s what I’ve been reading this last couple of months:
- “What’s the Future and Why it’s Up to Us“, by Tim O’Reilly
- “Roahl Dahl’s marvellous medicine“, by Tom Solomon
- “Les dones del 36“, by Isabel Olesti
- “Le livre des Baltimore“, by Joel Dicker
I started this post a few days ago with the idea of continuing with a quick review of each of the four books. They all are very different and good examples of my usual “scatterbrain” approach to reading.
But I got stuck with the “Les dones del 36″, whose title loosely translates as “The women of 1936”, a compilation of biographies of nine women who lived through the Spanish Civil War.
The more I thought about what to write, the more I realised I couldn’t do it without mentioning some background on my mild obsession with books on the topic of the Spanish Civil War.
But, where to start? How far should this background go?
The answer came from a tweet and its many replies:
At this point, I realised I would be making a disservice to myself, and to whomever may read these lines, if I tried to dismiss in a couple of lines why, one day, I picked up “Les dones del 36″ from a bookshelf.
Because, like Chema, I am a member of the so called “grand-children generation” and, 80 years later, our feelings are still raw.
The Spanish grand-children generation
Our grandparents were adults who had not sided with the winners of the war and had suffered the consequences. Our parents had been children and grown up in the heavy silence of their parents’ fear.
The next generation, my own, was born during the last years of Franco’s dictatorship or during the first period of the new democracy. Those were the times of new found freedom, the beginning of daring to hope and of looking to the future straight in the eye.
We were no longer scared and we wanted to know.
What happened in our town during the war?
What did our family do? Why?
Where did grandfather die?
What had life been like?
Sometimes our surviving grandparents were still dismissive of our questions, they did not want to stir old memories. Often our parents had no answers because they had been too little to understand or had known there were things they should not ask. Every now and then we may be lucky and get a throw away memory, a little clue, a nugget to treasure.
Like this annecdote from my maternal grandmother:
“A group of men came to the farm with dogs looking for your grandfather, who was hiding. They were very close and would have found him but I recognised the son of a friend amongst them and I said to him:
>> Aren’t you ashamed to come to my house like this? with dogs? don’t you remember I came to your first communion?
This threw them back. They hurried the rest of the search and did not manage to find him.”
Despite the constant insistance of my brother and me, she never ever told us where our grandfather and his two brothers had been hiding.
Most often, though, the real answers could only be found in books. And that’s why, for a long time, I haven’t been able to let a book on the Spanish Civil War go unread.
But, enough for now. I’ll tell you more another day.
Perhaps I’ll even start from the beginning. Who knows?