Spanish Civil War Novels

Professor Lo Re with one of the novels
Professor Lo Ré with one of the novels

The Rare Book Collection was delighted to receive a visit this spring from Professor Anthony George Lo Ré, UNC alumnus and retired faculty member of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Professor Lo Ré received his doctorate from Chapel Hill in 1965 with a thesis entitled The Novel of the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1960. To complete his dissertation, he corresponded with forty novelists and collected first and significant editions of their books. In 2004, he honored the University Library by donating his collection of over one hundred Spanish Civil War novels to the RBC.

The Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) began when armed Nationalists rose up against the Popular Front, a coalition of Liberals, Socialists, and Communists that was elected to govern the Second Republic of Spain. Hitler supported the Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, and the Republicans turned to the Soviet Union for aid. Foreigners sympathetic to the Republicans fought in the International Brigades, a phenomenon famously fictionalized by Ernest Hemingway in his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

PQ6605 .A857 V4 1956
PQ6605 .A857 V4 1956

While many in the U.S. know Hemingway’s book, few know the dozens of Spanish-language novels that appeared during the war years. Publication also flourished a decade later, as Professor Lo Ré established in his thesis. One of the most popular of the second wave of novels was El Vengador [The Avenger] (1956), by José Luis Castillo Puche, a friend of Hemingway. Castillo Puche, according to the account he gave to Professor Lo Ré, had a complex personal history that intersected with different aspects of the conflict. He served in the Red Army, while his family was persecuted and almost exterminated; he experienced a religious crisis at the end of the war and entered a Roman Catholic seminary; and he subsequently abandoned his religious vocation to study journalism. Castillo Puche wrote El Vengador out of a need for inner peace, as he noted in his letter of July 27, 1960, which is printed in the appendix of Professor Lo Ré’s thesis. Castillo Puche’s Hicieron Partes (1958) had won Spain’s National Prize of Literature. However, the author judged El Vengador to be his novel that had had the most success—a novel about the futility and sterility of vengeance. The original edition’s existentialist cover art certainly resonates with that message.

When Professor Lo Ré acquired El Vengador over half a century ago, it was a recent publication. Today, it and the other novels he donated to RBC have the patina of the past. Thanks to Professor Lo Ré’s generosity, researchers now have the opportunity to consult these evocative volumes at Wilson and examine one of the twentieth century’s most polarizing world events through the literature it engendered.

Samuel Daniel’s Civil Wars (1609)

Samuel Daniel, Civile Wares (1609).        William A. Whitaker Fund

Civil wars have served as catalysts for drastic changes in national and political identities all over the world. One of England’s major civil wars was actually a series of civil wars, known as the Wars of the Roses, during the 15th century between the houses of Lancaster and of York, both branches of the royal House of Plantagenet. The members of the House of Lancaster, represented by the red rose, and of York, represented by the white rose, were rivals for the English throne.

Here at the Rare Book Collection, we’ve acquired an exciting new (for us) copy of Samuel Daniel’s The Civile Wares Between the Howses of Lancaster and Yorke from 1609, a landmark historical account of England’s monarchs with an interesting history of revision.

Known commonly by its shortened title Civil Wars, Daniel’s principal work of poetic history has perhaps most famously been cited as one of the main sources for Shakespeare’s history plays, particularly the second tetralogy and primarily, therein, his Richard II. The 1609 edition is the final edition of a work that had been revised various times since the publication of the original text nearly fifteen years earlier in 1595. Daniel’s 1595 Civil Wars was a four-book work, which would later be extended into the eight books of the 1609 edition.

The revisions in 1609 demonstrate, as scholar Gillian Wright has suggested, a fundamental change in Daniel’s attitude toward English civil wars and what constitutes the rightful relationship between a monarch and his/her people. Whereas the 1595 edition privileges the monarch’s rights in condemning rebellion, the 1609 revisions seem to present a shift toward favoring the importance of just government, public good, and the ability of a monarch to fulfill the duties of office.

Among the more famous of the revised episodes is Daniel’s account of the Battle of Shrewsbury, which, it has been argued, was likely influenced in turn by Shakespeare’s  Henry IV Part I. Daniel’s 1609 Civil Wars thus stands not only as a remarkable achievement in English history writing but also as a fascinating example of intertextual influence in early modern England.

Our newly acquired copy has the remarkable 1609 engraved title-page, with a portrait of Daniel by Thomas Cockson. The portrait is set in the center in a large oval platter. Above the portrait, encased in a similar border, are the title of the work and Daniel’s motto which, according to scholar S. Clark Hulse, announces Daniel’s “Virgilian poetic course”: Ætas prima canat veneres postrema tumultus—“Let the first age sing of love, the latter of confusion.”

An inscription on the title-page tells us the copy belonged to one John Yorke, but it is difficult to ascertain who he may have been among the many notable John Yorkes in history. Nonetheless, that this previous owner shares his name with one of the warring houses Daniel depicts invites us to speculate what his relationship may have been with the House of York.