S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

BOOK REVIEW: The Spanish Civil War by Gabriele Ranzato

spanish civil warRanzato presents us with a pocketsize, summary of the political machinations of the various fighting-factions during the 1936 to 1939 Spanish Civil War. In large measure, he skips the military campaign. Permeating the conflict was the chaos of vacillating loyalties, conflicting interests of the various factions, and the telling influence of the military involvement of “non-interventionists” countries: for example, the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics and its Communist International’s (COMINTERN) domination of the “Republican” government, and the International Brigades comprised of men from most western nations. On the Nationalist side (Generalissimo Francisco Franco) were the Moroccan Legion, Nazi Germany’s Condor Legion, and Fascist Italy’s contribution of all manner of soldiers and arms.

On the positive side, he opens this book with an excellent summary of the political events that racked Spain before the Revolution. He discusses in detail the Soviet Union’s domination of the “Republican” government. On page fifty is a picture of a street scene in Barcelona—seen on the façade of a building is a large portrait of Vladimir Lenin. Emphasized throughout are descriptions of the atrocities committed by both sides. Relevant photographs and posters suffuse throughout the book. The Chronology at the end of the book set the perspective for the raison d’être the revolution.

Unfortunately, in Ranzato’s short treatise, he does not enlighten us very much. He mentions some of the factions and their involvement, but not enough to clarify the chaos. In fact, his text is so surfeit of details that our understanding of the internecine of the factions is seriously incomplete and muddled. Numerous side bar texts interrupt the flow of his narrative. His two small maps are insufficient in several ways: some geographic locations mentioned in the text are not shown on the maps, their scale is too large, and their paucity is a serious negative.

I would suggest that, in part, the problem lies in the translation to English from Spanish, his writing style, and the subject is so convoluted that one cannot resolve it in such a simple book.

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