War’s Long and Multi-Figured Shadow

Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World that It Made, by Richard Rhodes, (Simon & Schuster), 320 pages, release date 3 February, 2015

Hell and Good Company is much more than a history of the Spanish Civil War. Rather, it’s a study of the impact that war had on multiple fields: art, literature, medicine, and war itself. Richard Rhodes offers his usual crisp, engaging prose.

Over the course of this book we meet members of the different international brigades that fought alongside the Republicans. We see significant shifts in medical care, particularly in the storage and transfusion of blood. We follow Picasso’s process composing and painting Guernica. We spend time with George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway.

The Spanish Civil War was, in many ways, a prelude to World War II. The Nationalists received support from Nazi Germany, which both let the Germans experiment with new equipment and tactics and provided a distraction from Nazi maneuvering in Eastern Europe.

If you’re looking for a chronological history of the war, this book will disappoint—but that’s not what it’s intended to be. It’s a book that reflects on the impact of war on many efforts of human endeavor, that examines the war’s influence long after it ended.

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