One Million Dead, Vol. I
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By José María Gironella
One Million Dead continues the chronicle of the Spanish Civil War begun in The Cypresses Believe in God. Covering the actual war years of July 1936 to April 1939, the novel retains the Alvear family and Gerona as its psychological and geographical nuclei while also traversing the entirety of Spain as the chaos of the conflict dictates. Gironella spares none of the horrific details of the Civil War, illustrating the division and discord in families and friendships, the destruction of churches and homes, and the demise of innocence all wrought by the repeated re-enactment of the sin of Cain. From this panorama of death the book draws its title: Gironella writes, “I have used the figure of a million because I am including the murdered among the dead—all those who died at the hands of men who, in the grip of hatred, killed their own capacity for pity, their own souls.”
And Cain said to Abel his brother: Let us go forth abroad. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and slew him. (The Book of Genesis)
Matching the ambitious scope, dramatic poise, and emotional poignancy of its prequel, One Million Dead balances between impartiality and its author’s own attitude as it conducts the autopsy of a national tragedy which, its global relevance and repercussions notwithstanding, reveals the fundamentally fratricidal nature of war.
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José María Gironella (1917–2003) was a Spanish novelist, born in the Catalonian province of Gerona. He is best known for his historical novel, The Cypresses Believe in God, for which he won the National Prize for Literature. His other works include One Million Dead and Peace After War, which complete the trilogy begun with The Cypresses Believe in God, and Where the Soil Was Shallow, his debut novel for which he won the Nadal Prize.
Volume II available here.