Unraveling History: How George Orwell and Barcelona are Intertwined

Christian Petzold

Published February 2, 2024
Unraveling History How George Orwell And Barcelona Are Intertwined

Are you a history buff with a particular interest in George Orwell, or perhaps an avid traveler planning your next adventure to Barcelona?

This article is going to take you on a fascinating journey through time. We’ll discover how this iconic British author’s path crossed with Barcelona’s rich and tumultuous history.

Join me as we unravel this captivating narrative – whether it’s to satiate your curiosity about literary legends or to add another layer of understanding before you visit Catalunya’s crown jewel. 

The Spanish Civil War: A Quick Overview

The Spanish Civil War, which began in 1936, was a complicated and intense time. It all began when the Nationalist Party, led by General Francisco Franco, decided they had enough of the Second Spanish Republic a decided to seize power by force.

“I have seen wonderful things and at last really believe in Socialism, which I never did before.”

– George Orwell

Franco gathered the veteran troops from Northern Africa with one mission: remove the Republic from power. And this wasn’t just a minor disagreement.

  • The conflict lasted for three years.
  • By 1939, Franco’s side emerged victorious.

And the result? A dictatorship that continued until 1975 – a lot longer than many had hoped. The effects of the Spanish Civil War still linger in Spain, even after so many years.

Spanish Civil War

The Complex Landscape of Leftist Politics

Navigating leftist politics can feel like wandering through a labyrinth. Just when you think you know the path, a new turn appears out of nowhere. In this complexity, figures like George Orwell emerged to shine a light on the intricacies of the Spanish Civil War era.

George Orwell didn’t merely observe; he actively participated in the Spanish Civil War, joining the POUM militia to fight against the Nationalists. His book, “Homage to Catalonia“, provides a firsthand account of the political tensions, betrayals, and battles of the era. 

Orwell’s insights help us understand the dynamics of politics of the time, particularly the internal struggles and differences that emerged in Barcelona.

Despite their varied approaches, Spanish Republicans’ shared goal is clear: equality and better public services. They might differ in their methods, but they all believed in working together for a better future. Orwell’s experiences and writings serve as a testament to these complexities and the sacrifices made in the name of these ideals.

“It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle… Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal.”

– George Orwell

In short, grasping politics, especially during Orwell’s era, takes effort and understanding. But, like decoding a historical document, it’s immensely rewarding once you see the bigger picture.

Ring George Orwell

Orwell’s Journey to Barcelona and His Role in the War

Orwell’s Time in Barcelona

Before George Orwell became internationally acclaimed for novels like “1984” and “Animal Farm,” he found himself drawn to Barcelona, not for its iconic architecture or rich culture, but to participate in the tumultuous Spanish Civil War.

His Role in the Conflict

Orwell wasn’t merely an observer; he took a stand. Joining the ranks of the POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification), he was actively engaged in combat on the front lines. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) saw the Republicans, a diverse leftist coalition, against the Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco.

Was he courageous? Records and eyewitnesses commend Orwell’s bravery. He was even injured—a sniper’s bullet caught him in the neck, nearly taking his life.

Did the war reshape him? Undoubtedly. The complexities and betrayals he witnessed, especially from the infighting amongst Republican groups, deeply influenced his views on totalitarianism and politics.

The raw experiences from the war served as a foundation for his later works. His book “Homage to Catalonia” chronicles his Spanish experiences, shedding light on the internal and external struggles of the Republicans.

George Orwell

Iconic Landmarks in Barcelona Related to George Orwell

Famous for its iconic buildings and yummy tapas, there’s another layer to its story – its ties with the writer, George Orwell. Let’s uncover these special spots.

“[In Barcelona] above all there is a sense of understanding and comradeship…it has blossomed forth into one of those great spontaneous displays of fraternity of which there are so few examples…”

– George Orwell

First stop, The Plaza de George Orwell. Once known as “Plaza de Tripi”, its name changed to salute Orwell’s time in the Spanish Civil War. Interestingly, this plaza, linked to the privacy-loving Orwell, was among Barcelona’s first to have CCTV cameras.

Then there’s The Poliorama Theatre. During the war, Orwell used its height to watch over enemy moves. If you look closely, you might even spot where he might have stayed. We may not have time machines, but our imagination can do wonders.

Don’t miss The El Gran Teatro del Liceu either. This opera house isn’t just for music lovers. It featured in Orwell’s war memoir, “Homage To Catalonia”. Sitting in its red velvet seats, you might feel the weight of its history.

Gran Teatro Del Liceu


George Orwell, a renowned author, lived in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. He documented his experiences of political unrest and social revolution in “Homage to Catalonia”, providing an insightful perspective on 1930s Spain and influencing his later works like “1984”.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Did you know?

George Orwell, the renowned British author, found Barcelona a city of intrigue and revolution when he visited in 1936. This trip inspired his novel “Homage to Catalonia,” which vividly recounts his experiences during the Spanish Civil War. 

He even joined a militia group called POUM and fought against Franco’s forces, an experience that profoundly shaped his anti-totalitarian views seen in later works like “1984” and “Animal Farm”. 

Orwell’s time in Barcelona was cut short after being shot in the throat by a sniper – an event that nearly took his life but ultimately fueled his passion for writing about political tyranny.

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