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.”

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.”

Book 3: Peace After War (2 vols.) [Forthcoming // October 2022)

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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.