Health Warning: This is not a tweet-length post. It may be better absorbed with your feet up, a chocolate digie and a cup of Ovaltine in your hand. Or if you prefer, go to the bottom of the post and you'll see a link to the audio version you can download. Either way, Go Slow and expect only the unexpected. READ MORE...
In book 2 of the Forgotten Stories from Spain, we look at George Orwell and his contribution to our understanding of the state and how the past can be manipulated in order to determine both the present and the future. Now, before you run off thinking this has nothing to do with Spain, stop! Because you would be wrong, as it was in Spain that Orwell first began to witness these ideas in action.
George Orwell and Accountability
Tony Benn once recommended that we should ask our leaders 5 Important Questions:
Now, it strikes me that where I to sit, there are few countries in the world that could offer a positive response to any of these questions.
But things were not always like this. Once upon a time - for a fleeting moment in history - Spain enjoyed a flourishing democracy unlike anything the world had seen before, but it lasted just a few months. One man, however, witnessed that moment and wrote down the lessons he learnt in 3 majorly important books:
It's an Orwell Feast!
1984 and the Spanish Civil War is the second book in the Forgotten Stories From Spain trilogy, the first being the Ambulance Man and the Spanish Civil War (2nd Edition), and the final book: The Bank Robber and the Spanish Civil War - due out at the end of next year.
The Forgotten Stories series looks at particular moments during the civil war, and explores their relevance back then, and now. If you want to read the full story, grab both the audio and ebook here. If you want to learn an anarchist phrase or two: read the section below. Or if you'd like to collect some Anarchic Spanish Civil War Images, then check out the offering here.
Anarchic Sentences to slip into the conversation:
Posters to Collect and Swap!
Some of the images below can be found in the new book: 1984 and the Spanish Civil War. But not all...
To celebrate the anniversary of the creation of the International Brigades in Spain - and their fateful withdrawal supervised by the League of Nations - the GazpachOmnk presents this very special interview with a British International Brigadista: Sol Frankel.
One warm and sunny October evening, 12 years ago I received an unexpected phone call. "Could I give a talk on Living in Spain at a Hotel in Almuñecar, on the Granada coast?" The presenter had fallen ill and they needed a quick replacement.
That same evening I stood in front of a group of British pensioners attempting unsuccessfully to satisfy probing questions on oily food, the whereabouts of fresh milk and why more Spaniards don't speak English. At one point I managed to lever the subject away from British culinary needs and onto Spanish Culture and Spanish history. Immediately, one guy began to snore, several couple shuffled out towards the bar, whilst the rest passed round a packet of Fisherman's Friends. One man, however, sitting at the front, looked up and waved his walking stick in my direction as I mentioned the British volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.
"Yes?" I said, as he signalled for me to approach .
"I remember," he said, thrusting the stick at me as though it was a rifle, "the only weapons we had then were antiquated Russian rifles that had come via Mexico."
"You remember?" I said.
"Yes, of course." He replied. "After all, I was there." (Read on for the full interview with Sol Frankel, the International Brigade fighter.)
Felipe and Che Guevara's Notebooks
He remains, with Garcia Lorca, one of most well remembered poets of the generation of 27
It is said that several of Felipe's poems were found in the notebook of Che Guevara's when he was finally captured by the Bolivian Army and the CIA.
Want mOre stories on Characters From the Spanish civil war? Read about the Ambulance Man, the Spy and the Exodus below.
What does the name Orson Welles conjure up to you? The voice behind War of the Worlds? The voice behind Findus Peas? Or the creative genius of Citizen Kane? Well how about this...think not Orson Welles but Awesome Well - for thats where the great man ended up: lobbed down a well on the outskirts of Ronda in Andalusia.
This is the story of how the best film director of all time (British Film Institute) - a man remembered for his love of wine, food, beards and cigars - built a relationship with Spain that spread over the course of his entire life.
Hemingway and "The Spanish Earth"
Some say it all began when Orson arrived at the age of 17 in Seville and fell in love with the city, the romance and the bulls. Others say it happened at a later stage, when asked by Hemingway to narrate the classic film in support of the Spanish Republic: The Spanish Earth.
Orson was chosen to narrate the film because he had become the voice of his times. He could convince you that the Earth was being invaded by Martians, or that Carlsberg is "Probably the best lager in the world" or that frozen peas were something to salivate over in the supermarket.
But such a voice can be too good, as he was to discover later in life. Hemingway, came to a similar conclusion and ended up narrating another version of the film, saying Welles was too dramatic and his voice shifted the focus away from the real issues underlying the film. Whatever the true reason, Orson's love affair with the country had begun and wouldn't end until his body would be tossed down a well in the deep south of Spain.
Around the World with Orson and Paola Mori
Perhaps..."Getting things done are more important than living a certain way, being a certain thing. "
In 1955, Welles married Italian actress Paola Mori, a woman he would share not just his living quarters near Madrid, but later his well-shaped tomb in Ronda. The same year as the marriage, a British Rediffusion TV project proposed that Welles travel to different European locations, exploring and commenting on the culture and peoples of each place.
Called: "Around the World" Welles set off to the Basque country for one episode. In this fascinating insight into the land during the 1950's Welles narrates, contemplates and ponders on culture, quality of life, pace, progress, technology and fiestas.
The Around the World Series was not a great success, eventually it would be cut back from its original number of episodes to just 6. But it consolidated Orson's connection to the region, and to Spain in general that would stay with him until his next grand project about the Iberian peninsula: Don Quijote.
Filming in Spain 1: Don Quijote Goes to the Moon
Filming in Spain 2: Treasure Island and Chimes at Midnight
In 1964, he began to work with film producer Emiliano Piedra who had wanted to collaborate with Welles on a version of Treasure Island to be shot in Alicante. Welles agreed in order to get Piedra to work with him on Chimes at Midnight - his classic Shakspearian compilation. Although he had no real intention of shooting the Treaure Island film, he did write two screenplays in the 1960s, eventually forming the basis of the 1972 film in which Welles played Long John Silver (Shiver mi' timbers laddie)
Welles and Piedra filmed Chimes at Midnight (7.9 IMDB) in Colmenar, then Madrid, Pedraza, Soria and parts of the Basque country. - eventually completing the film in 1966.
Like so many of us today, Welles was man who would start a thousand projects, but complete only so many. Projects would last decades and whilst they dragged on, he would start others, such as this story about the world of the bullfight. Watch this incredible bit of Wellesian propoganda as he pushes for funding about what appears to be an autobiographical piece, introducing the ideas of Reality TV that would come back and haunt us in the 21st century.
Towards the end of his life, permanently broad-hatted and with a cigar clenched Clint-Eastwood-style between his beardy-lips, Welles spent more and more time in Spain, pursuing his passion for food, drink and life as well as his fascination for la corrida.
An Awesome Well in Ronda
On October 10, 1985 George Orson Welles died from a heart attack on the same day as Yul Brynner and the same week as Rock Hudson died. Hollywood pondered on the synchronicity and mourned the loss of such giants.
Despite having wished his body to be buried in one of the small villages that appeared in Chimes at Midnight, Welles' body was instead cremated and two years later, the remains of both Welles and Paola Mori were dropped down a well on a small finca on the outskirts of Ronda - a patch of earth owned by an old bullfighting friend - Antonio Ordóñez.
Adios Don Orson
Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.
Welles was a creative machine: He filmed 13 full length films, 14 short films, 7 TV series and worked on 14 unfinished films. He starred, wrote or produced over a 130 productions in all and 100's of radio programs.
Some argue that a man such as Orson, a man with big appetite and a curiosity for life would never be content in the USA. He would need to stretch himself into other cultures and into other lifestyles. Of all the countries in Europe, Spain was the one that unaccountably tugged at his heart.
In the final conclusion of his visit to the Basque Country in Around the World, Welles looks starrily into the sky during a firework fiesta on the streets of the town. Then slowly he looks back at the camera and says: "Here in the Basque country people do not end their stories with 'and so they lived happily ever after'. Instead they say 'And if they lived well, they died well.'"
Welles looks mournfully back up to the sky and in his face you see the desire to do so too. Did he live well? He most certainly did. Did he die well? Not exactly, but he did end up in a well. And in Spain. Maybe that counts for something.
In Search of Orson
In 2005 Kristian Petri made a short documentary called The Well, in which he travels through Spain looking for the legacy of the large bearded one.
Unfortunately, the very day I posted this article the video was removed from Youtube. It may return. let me know if it does. Its worth watching.
"What's happening now is what happened before, and often what's going to happen again sometime or other”
Orson and the Peas
Watch this great animated short of out-takes on Welles reading for the Findus Peas advert. Hilarious, charismatic and obstinate, Welles was off-screen as difficult as on screen. If the Link
“We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.”
Want More Stories from Spain?
Tired of the same old stories? Check out these best selling stories from a forgotten country:
1: The Forgotten Stores Series (Civil War Stories of Bravery such as the Ambulance Man who came to help the city of Malaga in exodus - or George Orwell in Barcelona and on the battlefield of the Civil War)
2: The Radical Routes Trilogy - Stories from contemporary Spain with themes of food, recipes, slowing down, tradition and the changing nature of Spanish society: Inside the Tortilla, Slow Route Home and The Way fo the Hound.
Available from online stores or direct here from the author at a special reduced price here.
People say you can’t kill an idea, but you can. For that's what happened in Spain in 1937.
No other political or social ideology would come close to the anarchist movement of 1936 in Spain, yet by 1937 the movement had not only been dealt a death blow, but its very existence had begun to be eradicated from the minds and memory of popular history in a chilling pre-run of Orwells 1984.
How could this happen? And why - 80 years later - are we seeing the shoots of the movement once more arise between the down-trodden soles of the disenchanted and unemployed in Spain? Read More here.....
Why Orwell is essential to understanding Spain today. More here - Forgotten Stories From Spain
Find out More about the ebook and audio
Forgotten Stories From Spain Book HERE
And Watch The Tortilla Intro Video here...
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