My third book. The subject matter is darker than the previous books, but it’s impossible to understand modern Spain without exploring what happened there in the 1930s.
‘After twelve years in Spain, Jason has developed a deep love for his adopted homeland; his life there seems complete. But when he and his Spanish wife move into an idyllic old farmhouse in the mountains north of Valencia, by chance he finds an unmarked mass grave from the Spanish Civil War on his doorstep. Spurred to investigate the history of the Civil War, a topic many of his Spanish friends still seem to treat as taboo, he begins to uncover a darker side to the country. Witness to a brutal fist-fight sponsored by remnants of Franco’s Falangists, arrested and threatened by the police in the former HQ of the Spanish Foreign Legion, sheltered by a beautiful transvestite, shunned by locals, haunted by ghosts and finally robbed of his identity, Jason encounters a legacy of cruelty and violence that seems to linger on seventy years after the bloody events of that war.
As in Webster’s previous books, Duende and Andalus, ¡Guerra! reveals the essence of modern Spain, which few outsiders ever manage to see. Fascinating true stories from the Civil War, vividly retold as he travels around the country, form a concise and compelling introduction to the period, from the murder of Lorca to the siege of the Alcázar and the fire-bombing of Guernica. Yet the more Webster unveils of the passions that set one countryman against another, the more his is led to wonder: could the dark, primitive currents that ripped the country apart in the 1930s still be stirring under the sophisticated, worldly surface of today’s Spain?’
‘With this book, Webster definitively joins the long line of Anglophone writers who have interpreted Spain to the world: Richard Ford, Ernest Hemingway, Gerald Brenan, Hugh Thomas, and Ian Gibson. It is distinguished company but he deserves his place in the pantheon.’
‘Webster is a great travel writer, with an eye for details that bring his landscapes and histories alive, and he evokes the drama of this period and its long-term consequences with eloquence’
‘An absorbing book that conveys the raw Spanish experience – its heat, dust, light and shade – with rare and startling actuality.’
‘Vivid and perceptive’
‘Written with considerable power and beauty’
‘[An] excellent introduction to the conflict’
‘An outstanding account of the war and its causes’