Tag Archives: war

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell


In 1936 George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, was sent to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War. Upon arriving there he did the only thing sensible to him at the time, he took up arms with the anarchist militia against the fascist army of Francisco Franco. Orwell took the role of a soldier-reporter in which he wrote a book about his experiences, Homage to Catalonia.

For anyone interested in the dynamics of revolutionary history or Anarchism, this is one book that cannot be missed. Orwell recounts the entire ordeal beginning with joining the militia to narrowly escaping Spain during the political meltdown in a way that would make James Bond cream his tuxedo. Orwell’s recount is told with his signature charm, irony, and wit. It’s not often that we get to read a war book written by literary master who was actually there in the trenches. His first-hand accounts of combat put you right next to him crawling on your belly through mud and barb wire. You feel the panic of the communication lines breaking down in the midst of enemy fire, and the savagely cold nights with hardly a wick light to keep warm. Orwell portrayal of the petty infighting between anti-fascist forces will make the reader cross their head at the absurdity of war.

This isn’t a book that celebrates the glory of the battle field. It is harsh retelling of what it was like to be there in the madness. We get to see the transformation of Orwell starting off as wide-eyed man romanticized by the armed struggle, only to finish off disillusioned by the destruction, propaganda, and deadly ego battles. The relevancy of this book is at a fevered pitch in these modern times, but it’s a scream that is drowned out in the awesome flood of waving flags and avalanching politics.


If you want a picture of the future,

imagine a boot stamping on a human

face- forever.”

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a review of “the happy birthday of death” by gregory corso. Beat poetry and the anarchy of language.

It was strange, I still don’t know exactly what to think of The Happy Birthday of Death (1960),  except that I enjoyed it greatly. At first Corso’s poems seemed like pure chaos. I picked up this book at a second hand store, it was the first time I had even heard of Gregory Corso (1930-2001). The words he used, and how he used them, barely held in relation to the others. Sometimes they appeared as if chosen at random. Perhaps they were. An anarchy of words! These odd combinations resulted in creations such as “pie glue” and “penguin dust.” In every poem there was a meaning that defied reason, even by the standards of poetry, but something was there that held it together. An amorphous purpose that can only be communicated in the funky style that Corso writes in.

His experimental style is so different from everything out there, that even the more open minded readers are in for a poetic curve ball. Corso celebrates the liberation of language and ideas. Most importantly, he has fun with poetry. Poetry is not some sacred tradition that’s has grown stale as an ancient vase in a museum. Corso has commented on the subject,

“How I love to probe life…. That’s what poetry is to me, a wondrous prober….It is not a meter or a measure of a line, a breath; not ‘law’ music; but the assembly of great eye sounds placed into an inspired measured idea.”

Breaking rules is what he does best. Corso’s beat poetry style bounces around the page shattering the glass castle of tradition. He has the soul of a jester philosopher. Poems such as “Marriage” are just a stone’s throw away from stand up comedy, while “Bomb” and “Police,” deal with the horror of war and societal repression. In the back of my head a nagging thought continually arose, “are you even allowed to do that?” The Happy Birthday of Death is a short read that packs a punch and is small enough to squeeze into your pocket. Put on your “fried shoes,” walk to your local bookstore, and tell the clerk, “Penguin dust, bring me penguin dust, I want penguin dust!”

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