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The Heart of Spain
New York: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Inc.,, 1952. Anthology of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Introduction by Dorothy Parker. Octavo. Original blue cloth, titles to spine gilt and insignia to front board in blind. With the panels and flaps of the dust jacket preserved and pasted down to the endpapers. Spine tanned with a few small dented points, corners rubbed, faint partial tanning to endpapers. A very good copy. First edition, first printing, of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade's "partisan anthology" collecting poetry and prose on the side of Republican Spain against Franco. This is poet and activist Nancy Cunard's copy, sent to her (in Lot, France) from London by Alec Digges, then secretary of the International Brigade Association and Friends of Republican Spain (who also is credited with the inception of Amnesty International in 1954, originally conceived by him as a call for amnesty for political prisoners in Spain. Peter Benenson, more usually touted as the originator, in fact consulted Digges before writing his 1961 Observer article "The Forgotten Prisoners"). This copy includes, tipped in at the rear, a typed letter signed (17th August 1952) from Digges to Cunard indicating the gift of this book "which I think you will love... I could not lay it down when I started and stayed up nearly all night reading it", thanking her for sending him French news clippings relating to events in Gouffre Lepineaux (noted spelunker and sometime French Resistance runner Marcel Loubens had just fallen to his death exploring the Pyrenean gulf), and discussing his efforts to help Republican prisoners of war still incarcerated, and also to rouse trade union and labour movement against the Government's export of arms to Franco's Spain. Cunard has written on the front pastedown a note enthusiastically praising the book, listing her favourite parts, and roundly concluding, "Also one of the finest Anthologies of all time". Cunard, who had had an extensive role as a journalist and activist on the Republican side, clearly loved this book and read it with reminiscent fervour; it is full of her involved self-referential annotations (many signed "N.C."), noting her personal acquaintance with many of the listed authors and providing additional information from her own experiences in Spain; admittedly these are not without a hint of self-aggrandisement, "Perhaps I was the first journalist to force my way in that particular hell". In the bibliography, Cunard has noted next to the "Writers Take Sides, New York, League of American Writers, 1938" entry, "My title copied by them - N." Cunard, with Auden and Spender, conceived and edited "Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War" (London: Left Review, 1937), which compiled the responses of authors to her questionnaire "Are you for, or against, the legal Government and the People of Republican Spain?" and "are you for, or against, Franco and Fascism? For it is impossible any longer to take no side". Cunard's own answer to this question gives some indication of how much the issue, and this book, meant to her: "Spain is not "politics," but life; its immediate future will affect every human who has a sense of what life and its facts mean, who has respect for himself and humanity. Above all others, the writer, the intellectual, must take sides. His place is with the people against fascism; his duty, to protest against the present degeneration of the democracies.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2013-07-20           Check availability:      Biblio    

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