Original edition of Homage to Catalonia

March 6th, 2012 | by nick |

Original edition of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. The Barcelona police took his draft copy in June 1937 from his wife’s bedroom at the Hotel Contiental. Where did this copy end up? As a foreign socialist, it may well have been passed onto the NKVD and then to Moscow. I think it would be a literary bombshell to fund the original draft, perhaps forgotten and gathering dust somewhere in a box. When he got back to Britain he had to re-write it from memory. His usual publisher, Gollancz didn’t want it. Nobody else did. Left-wing publishers were either in the control of the communists or did not want to rock the Republican’s boat. The rightwing for obvious reasons. It was finally published after 18 months of rejections and setbacks in 1939? by small publisher’s Secker & Warburg. It was a commercial flop and the first edition did not sell out to 1951.

Here’s some more background on its publication from Eric Hobsbawn

“Among the losers, polemics about the Civil War, often bad-tempered, have never ceased since 1939. This was not so while the war was still continuing, although such incidents as the banning of the dissident Marxist POUM party and the murder of its leader Andrés Nin caused some international protest. Plainly a number of foreign volunteers arriving in Spain, intellectuals or not, were shocked by what they saw there, by suffering and atrocity, by the ruthlessness of warfare, brutality and bureaucracy on their own side or, insofar as they were aware of them, the intrigues and political feuds within the Republic, by the behaviour of the Russians and much else. Again, the arguments between the Communists and their adversaries never ceased. And yet, during the war the doubters remained silent once they left Spain. They did not want to give aid to the enemies of the great cause. After their return, Simone Weill, though patently disappointed, said not a word. Wystan Auden wrote nothing, though he modified his great 1937 poem Spain in 1939 and refused to allow it to be reprinted in 1950. Faced with Stalin’s terror, Louis Fischer, a journalist closely associated with Moscow, denounced his past loyalties – but he took trouble to do so only when this gesture could no longer harm the Spanish Republic. The exception proves the rule: George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. It was refused by Orwell’s regular publisher, Victor Gollancz, ‘believing, as did many people on the Left, that everything should be sacrificed in order to preserve a common front against the rise of Fascism,’ which was also the reason given by Kingsley Martin, editor of the influential weekly New Statesman & Nation, for accepting a critical book review. They represented the views overwhelmingly prevalent on the left. Orwell himself admitted after his return from Spain that, ‘a number of people have said to me with varying degrees of frankness that one must not tell the truth about what is happening in Spain and the part played by the Communist Party because to do so would prejudice public opinion against the Spanish government and so aid Franco,’ (Hugh Thomas, p. 817). Indeed, as Orwell himself recognized in a letter to a friendly reviewer, ‘what you say about not letting the Fascists in owing to dissensions between ourselves is very true.’ More than this: the public showed no interest in the book. It was published in 1938 in 1500 copies, which sold so poorly that the stock was not yet exhausted thirteen years later when it was first reprinted (Orwell in Spain, pp. 28, 251, 269-70). Only in the Cold War era did Orwell cease to be an awkward, marginal figure”

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