José María Gironella: Un millón de muertos (One Million Dead)
This is the second in Gironella’s trilogy, following on from Los cipreses creen en Dios (The Cypresses Believe in God). In the first book, we saw events through the eyes of the inhabitants of Gerona and, in particular, the Alvear family. In this book, while the action is still partially set in Gerona and we still follow the actions of the Alvear family, everything is subordinated to the events of the civil war. Indeed, if there is a hero, it is the war. We see not only events in Gerona, but also the Durruti column’s attack on Zaragoza, the war in the air (but no mention of Guernica), the attack on and the siege of Madrid and many events in Barcelona, in particular its fall to the nationalists. Gironella is clearly on the nationalist side – he calls the two sides nationalists and reds – but he gives a not unsympathetic portrait of the reds.
The Alvear family is certainly mentioned. We follow Ignacio to Barcelona and then to Madrid where he works as a nurse. With the assistance of his cousin, José, a red, he crosses the lines and joins up with the Falange and is with the army that conquers Gerona. We follow his relatives and his girlfriend, Marta, who flees the country at the very beginning. Most of the main characters of the first book reappear here but all of them seem to subjugated to the big picture of the Spanish Civil war. But if you want to follow the war from the point of view of the inhabitants, this is as good a place as any to start.
First published in Spanish 1961 by Editorial Planeta
First published in English 1963 by Doubleday
Translated by Joan MacLean