Gironella Spanish Civil War Set


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By José María Gironella * The Spanish Civil War

Book 1: The Cypresses Believe in God (2 vols.) 

Set in the provincial capital of Gerona and spanning the years 1931 to 1936, The Cypresses Believe in God painstakingly plots the public and private elements which eventually exploded into war. At the center of the novel are Matías and Carmen Elgazu Alvear, and their three children: César, strange yet saintly; Pilar, charming and clever; and Ignacio, the protagonist, inquisitive and idealistic. Through these characters and the ordinary life of Gerona, Gironella writes, “I have tried to capture the everyday traits, the mentality, the inner ambiance of my compatriots in all their pettiness and all their grandeur.”

Individual volumes available at: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Book 2: One Million Dead (2 vols.)

Covering the actual war years of July 1936 to April 1939, One Million Dead 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.”

Individual volumes available at: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Book 3: Peace After War (2 vols.)

Covering the immediate postwar years, Peace After War follows the Alvear family and their various friends and enemies, compatriots and competitors as they contend with the consequences of their bloody national conflict. Daily life in Spain quickly finds that the worst effect of war is its disruptive influence on a people’s capacity to love “the minutiae of life and nature.” The horrific early days of the Second World War throw this effect into even sharper relief. In plumbing the virtues and defects of the Spanish people and nation in the time of their most terrible personal turmoil, Peace After War sheds light on the character of humanity as a whole and offers a stark reminder of the sobering fact that the absence of war is not the same as peace, and an armistice can still be a fractious, unforgiving affair.

Individual volumes available at: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

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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.