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  You are in: Home > History > Triumph at Midnight of the Century  

Triumph at Midnight of the Century
A Critical Biography of Arturo Barea

Michael Eaude

Michael Eaude is a translator and freelance writer, mainly on Spanish literature and politics, who has lived in Spain for the last twenty years. Author of Barcelona, the city that reinvented itself (Five Leaves) and Catalonia, a Cultural History (Signal), he published in Spanish the first full-length study of Arturo Barea.


Arturo Barea (1897–1957) is often seen as merely a spontaneous writer with a passion against injustice. In fact, he set out deliberately to write concretely and sensuously: about himself in order to understand his mid-life nervous breakdown; and about his generation as a way of explaining the underlying causes of the Spanish Civil War. With acute psychological insight, this self-taught boy from the slums, who left school aged 13, drew a unique portrait of Spanish society in the early twentieth century.

His trilogy The Forging of a Rebel was well received by George Orwell, “An excellent book … Señor Barea is one of the most valuable of the literary acquisitions that England has made as a result of Fascist persecution”; and Gabriel García Márquez, “One of the best novels written in Spanish.” He is unusual in that he was one of the first Spanish working-class writers, one of the first autobiographers in Spain, and someone who published mainly in English though all his attention was focused on Spain.

In this groundbreaking biography, based on numerous interviews with people who knew Barea, Michael Eaude revisits Barea’s writing qualities and deficiencies in the context of stimulating intersections of literature and politics, and of Spain and England. He evaluates all his major works, including The Track, the story of Barea’s time as a sergeant during the 1920s colonial war in Morocco; The Forge, the story of city and country, school and work, in the first years of the twentieth century, told through the eyes of a child; The Clash, the story of Barea’s experience as a censor during the Civil War; The Broken Root, his last novel, about exile and an imagined return to Madrid; and his short stories and essays. He also puts into perspective Barea’s more than 800 talks for the BBC, and rebuts slanders that Barea did not write his own books.

Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies

List of Illustrations
The Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies
Series Editor’s Preface
Editions of Barea’s Books Used
List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Successful Exile – Political and Personal Aims

I Arturo Barea: His Life up to 1939
II Valor y miedo: Propaganda and Passive Heroism
III Moving beyond “Surface Realism”
IV The Child’s Eye: The Forge
V Anti-imperialism in Morocco: The Track
VI The Clash: The Flame of Revolution
VII Barea in England: 1939–1957
VIII Hunger to Read: Criticism and Stories
IX Exile without Resentment

Conclusion: Unflinching Eye of a Working-class Writer

Appendix 1 Publishing history
Appendix 2 Chronological table of Barea’s books and articles
Appendix 3 Ilse Pollak/Ilsa Barea, 1902–1972
Appendix 4 The Córdoba tape


“Eaude (a freelance writer) has written a thoughtful, detailed examination of the works of Barea (1897–1957) and how Barea’s life experiences influenced his writings. The author’s cogent introduction will serve primarily those unfamiliar with the period of the Spanish Civil War and the lives of ordinary Spaniards preceding and during that time (more experienced readers may appreciate the underscoring of previous research and accounts). Barea’s was one of the foremost socialist voices of the Spanish Civil War era, and his writing captured the nuances as well as the social and political realities of the time. Much of Barea’s value lies in his mix of fiction and personal experience. In 1938, Barea took political asylum in England, where he lived out his days. Eaude weaves into his account details of Barea’s childhood and his adult and professional life, providing excerpts from Barea’s novels – which are among the few by Spanish writers based on firsthand experience during this critical era in modern Spanish history.” Choice

“A translator and writer focusing on Spanish literature and politics, Eaude wrote the first full-length account in Spanish of exile Spanish novelist and critic Barea (1897–1957), who is now remembered, when remembered at all, more for his three volume autobiography/history The forging of a Rebel than for his fiction. This English biography traces his life after 1939 within the framework of his literary output. Among the stages are moving beyond surface realism, The Clash and the flame of revolution, and exile without resentment.” Reference & Research Book News

Triumph is a readable yet thought-provoking book, full of impressive literary and historical understanding, and its arguments are almost always commanding. In true Barean style it celebrates the Spanish author’s achievements but does not flinch from highlighting the negative sides to his life and work. These include Barea’s refusal, while working as censor, to block the publication of smear stories about the revolutionary POUM, which he probably knew to be false (like the POUM, Ilsa herself was also accused of counter-revolutionary ‘Trotskyism’ by the Stalinists), and the crude nationalist stereotypes in some of his writings.

And Triumph remains an impressive and successful attempt at explaining a writer who has too often been ignored and misunderstood. Barea’s ‘focus was on the millions who live history without a voice’ for whom and about whom he wrote. Tragically he became cut off from that audience by events beyond his control. It is hoped that Eaude’s critical biography and the cheaper recent paperback version of Barea’s trilogy (published by Granta) will bring Barea to a new audience. No doubt they will help forge new rebels … and writers!” International Socialism

“Arturo Barea (1897–1957), was one of the most interesting figures in the first half of the Twentieth Century. A leftish Spanish critic and journalist of some merit and for a time a propaganda broadcaster during the Republic, Barea was the author of, among others, a very fine, literate biography, The Forging of a Rebel, the second volume of which, The Track, about his tour in the army during the Riff War, is one of the most outstanding military memoirs by a common soldier. This attempt at a “critical biography” is interesting, but flawed, and by no means succeeds in bringing the man to life. The author’s tone is blatantly partisan, never calling the Spanish Nationalists anything other than “fascists” despite generations of scholarship by Stanley Payne, Gabriel Jackson, Hugh Thomas and others on the complexities of the Spanish Right, yet chiding Barea for using the “racist” “Moros” when referring to Moroccans. The author is also not well versed in the military side of the Spanish Civil War and barely touches upon Barea’s military experiences.” New York Military Affairs Symposium


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
Hardback, October 2008; paperback, April 2011
  Illustrated:   Yes
Hardback Price:
£45.00 / $74.95
Paperback Price:
£22.50 / $34.95

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