Literary Texts

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Allan, Ted. This Time a Better Earth. Ed. Bart Vautour. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2015.

First published in 1939, shortly after Allan returned to Canada from Spain, this semi-autobiographical novel follows a young Canadian into Spain where he fights briefly with the International Brigades, takes up broadcasting work in Madrid, and falls in love with a German photojournalist.

Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. Listen In! This Is Station...EAQ Madrid Spain. Toronto: Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, 1937.

Canadians were among those broadcasting from Madrid, across Spain and to North America during the Spanish Civil War. This pamphlet includes pieces that purport to be transcripts of some of these broadcasts, including pieces from Dr. Norman Bethune and his associate Hazen Sise, and Professor J.B.S. Haldane. They describe the conditions in Spain, the resistance of the Spanish people, and the ways they and those back home can support the Republican cause.

Garner, Hugh. Best Stories. Ed. Emily Robins Sharpe. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2015.

Garner fought with the International Brigades, and some of his stories–“The Stretcher-Bearers,” “How I Became an Englishman,” and “The Expatriates”–represent volunteers in Spain. Garner is particularly critical of the conditions and structures of war, including the Communists who led the International Brigades. His stories are useful for reading the Spanish Civil War within a Canadian tradition of war literature.

Harrison, Charles Yale. Meet Me on the Barricades. Ed. Bart Vautour and Emily Robins Sharpe. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2016.

Harrison’s novel is experimental, including a series of fantasy sequences, and at times satiric, setting it apart from the majority of earnest Spanish Civil War literature. Harrison’s novel is significant for its self-consciousness as a modernist novel and as a political document. It recounts a few days in the life of P. Herbert Simpson, a middle-aged, weak-hearted oboist with the New York Symphony Orchestra and leftist fellow traveller. Simpson is subject to wild hallucinations that are sometimes daydreams, sometimes drunken delirium, and on occasion intricate dreams while asleep. He imagines escaping his unrewarding marriage with a prudish, domineering wife through a passionate fantasy of a Russian girlfriend, and escaping his day job in the symphony to fight on the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. This is a self-consciously modernist novel that echoes the style and strategies of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Livesay, Dorothy. Right Hand Left Hand: A True Life of the Thirties. Erin, ON: Press Porcépic, 1977.

Livesay’s memoir recalls her experiences during the 1930s, including her participation in political, social and cultural communities. But she destabilizes the singular perspective of her memoir by including various documents by and about other people, events, and places. This includes a chapter on Canadian participation in the Spanish Civil War, which is contextualized and juxtaposed with other sections about Canada’s cultural and political scenes during this decade.

López-Pacheco, Jesús. Poetic Asylum: Poems Written in Canada 1968-1990. Trans. Fabio López-Lázaro. London, ON: Brick Books, 1991.

López-Pacheco was already a successful writer in Spain when he and his family immigrated to Canada in 1968. He left Spain for political reasons, as he was not a supporter of Franco’s regime. His poetry, translated into English by his son, confronts his complex feelings regarding his self-imposed exile, and he writes for and against major figures of the Spanish Civil War, including Franco and Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune.  

Reid, Gayla. Come from Afar. Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2011.

In England in the spring of 1939, Clancy, an Australian nurse, waits with her infant daughter for news of her lover, who was a volunteer with the Mackenzie-Papineau Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. As she waits, Clancy shares with her daughter the story of her own childhood in the Australian bush and her disastrous marriage to an English archaeologist. When the Spanish Civil War erupted, Clancy volunteered on the Republican side. Her chance for happiness amid the chaos came when she met the young Canadian, Douglas Ross.

Richler, Mordecai. Joshua Then and Now. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1980.

Despite his success as a Montreal television writer and journalist, Joshua is deeply unhappy. He regrets that he was born too late to fight in the Spanish Civil War, and so he dedicates his professional energies to travelling to Spain and writing about the International Brigades, an obsession that also takes him away from his family. With extensive flashbacks to Joshua’s youth, Joshua Then and Now highlights the Spanish Civil War’s ongoing cultural importance to Canadian Jewish identity.

–––. The Acrobats. London: André Deutsch, 1954.

Set in Franco’s post-war Spain, Richler’s first novel traces the interactions between Canadian and American tourists visiting Franco’s post-war Spain. One character,, André Bennett, a Canadian painter, wants to return home with his girlfriend. Another, Derek, an International Brigades veteran, remembers his wartime days in Spain fondly, despite the homophobic violence he also suffered. Derek’s brother-in-law, Barney, also joins them, personally destroyed by his longstanding attempts to pass as a gentile in the hopes of avoiding the antisemitism that damaged the rest of his family. These characters and others are joined by Roger Kraus, a Nazi on the run. The Acrobats brings together a variety of characters hoping to find some sort of personal truth in Spain.

Ruth, Elizabeth. Matadora. Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2013.

Set in Spain and Mexico during the 1930s, Matadora tells the story of Luna Caballero García, an impoverished and intrepid servant attempting to make her name in the bullring at a time when it was illegal for a girl to do so. Matadora carries readers from bohemian artistic circles in Mexico City and Andalusia to Norman Bethune’s mobile blood transfusions on the Madrid front. Against a backdrop of rising fascism and the Spanish Civil War, Elizabeth Ruth has created a powerful and compelling exploration of love, art, and politics, and an intelligent mirror for our times.

Vulpe, Nicola and Maha Albari, eds. Sealed in Struggle: Canadian Poetry & The Spanish Civil War: An Anthology. La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands: Center for Canadian Studies, Universidad de la Laguna, 1995.

Vulpe and Albari collect much of the Canadian poetry about the Spanish Civil War, including work written during the war, and for many decades after. The collection showcases some of the major themes in Canadian poetry of the Spanish Civil War, and includes a critical introduction by Vulpe.

West, Terrence Rundle. Not in my Father’s Footsteps. General Store Publishing House, 2011.

Beginning in Montreal in the 1930s, where tensions are running high, this It’s the 1930s. In Montreal, tensions are running high, this historical novel that follows two young men from the bread lines and hobo jungles of Canada to the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War. From Outremont to St. Urbain Street, people are struggling to lift off the yoke of strife and despair caused by the most devastating economic depression the world has ever experienced. For young, single men with no jobs, the only option is to ride the rails. Perhaps go to Vancouver. Or maybe Spain, to fight the fascists. What have they got to lose?