The new novel by George Orwell is the major work towards which all his previous writing has pointed. Critics have hailed it as his “most solid, most brilliant” work. Though the story of Nineteen Eighty-Four takes place thirty-five years hence, it is in every sense timely. The scene is London, where there has been no new housing since 1950 and where the city-wide slums are called Victory Mansions. Science has abandoned Man for the State. As every citizen knows only too well, war is peace.
Spain, 1936. Escalating violence between left- and right-wing political factions boils over. Military officers stage a coup against a democratically elected, Soviet-backed, government. The country is thrown into chaos as centuries-old tensions return to the forefront. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards choose sides and engage in the most devastating combat since the First World War. For loyalists to the Republic, the fight is seen as one for equality and their idea of progress. For the rebels, the struggle is a preemptive strike by tradition against an attempted communist takeover.
Thousands of foreigners, too, join the struggle. Most fight with the Soviet-sponsored International Brigades or other militias aligned with the loyalist “Republicans”. Only a few side with the rebel “Nationalists”. One of these rare volunteers for the Nationalists was Peter Kemp, a young British law student. Kemp, despite having little training or command of the Spanish language, was moved by the Nationalist struggle against international Communism. Using forged documents, he sneaked into Spain and joined a traditionalist militia, the Requetés, with which he saw intense fighting. Later, he volunteered to join the legendary and ruthless Spanish Foreign Legion, where he distinguished himself with heroism. Because of this bravery, he was one of the few foreign volunteers granted an private audience with Generalissimo Francisco Franco.