Review: The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a definitive history of the Spanish Civil War. The book has been regarded by the Spanish themselves as one of the best-researched volumes on this dark period of turmoil in their country’s history. The breakdown of democracy saw the split of the nation and a leftist democratically elected government was forced to deal with the rise of a militaristic fascist rising headed by Franco. The precursor to World War 2, this civil war attracted the interests of the rising Fascist movement across Europe with the Caudillo’s forces being supplemented and supported by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. They got to test out their modern weaponry in the field of action and a lack of international support for the actual government left them with little alternative but to rely on the Soviet Union for their support. This led to the republicans being over-reliant on the Spanish communists who struggled to take over and erode democracy from their own angle, constantly infighting and vying for strength with the other elements of the Spanish left; the Anarchists and the POUM. This history details how all the events unfolded and describes how each of the key battles was won and lost. There was a ferociousness during this conflict which only civil wars attract. The horrors of modern war truly unfolded disasters such as Guernica only emphasised how critical air support had become. The German Condor Legion and their Meschersmitts, backed up by Italian Fiats, consistently demolished the Republican resistance and paved the way for an overall Nationalist victory. Poor military judgement, combined with Stalinist purges of even the more successful Russian generals, left the Republicans constantly making errors in their military tactics. The lack of proper international support (with the exception of the volunteer International Brigades), in particular from Britain led to the inevitable crushing of the elected government and their forces. Appeasement was in the air as Western politicians tried to avoid the inevitable European conflict that was brewing and the Spanish were sacrificed. It was a war of experimentation which left the Spanish people at the mercy of the violent forces which dominated the time. Franco consolidated his own power well and was relentless and unforgiving, not accepting any olive branch of peace when offered and pursuing an ultimate military victory so he could proceed to rebuild his country in his own image. The book is highly detailed and covers every angle well, though I would have perhaps wanted a more lengthy conclusion to discuss more of what happened in the post-conflict period. I look forward to tracking down some of the author’s other work, in particular, his account of the battle of Stalingrad which was often mentioned in this most excellent history of the Spanish Civil War.

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Review: Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation

Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation
Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation by Douglas Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another book I’ve read in preparation for the Translation (BA) at Cardiff University on which I’m about to embark. This book aims not so much at the theories of Translation Studies as in other textbooks I have read but focuses more on life as a professional translator. It is preparation for the world of work and discusses many of the issues which one might encounter if one is successful in this career choice. The book has its own ideas and it does perhaps over-apply its terminologies of pattern-building and intuitive leaps. I found it a bit wishy-washy in places as I am still very new to the ideas of Translation. It is easy enough to understand as a basic concept yet the actual science of translation can be quite complicated. There are some nice, practical exercises at the end of each chapter which are good food for thought. I think that this book was a good introduction to translation and I can see it being a useful source of reference for me in years to come.

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Review: Romantic Revolutionary: Simon Bolivar and the Struggle for Independence in Latin America

Romantic Revolutionary: Simon Bolivar and the Struggle for Independence in Latin America
Romantic Revolutionary: Simon Bolivar and the Struggle for Independence in Latin America by Robert Harvey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Simon Bolivar was one of history’s great characters. His revolutions across South America overthrew Spanish rule in six countries. His empire extended across the continent and was as large as that of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great. Against all the odds, he was a Nietzchean superhuman, who with mainly inferior forces, defeated a strong European military power. He would race for battles across thousands of miles, often having to deal with the impossible geography of Latin America to do so. He was very sympathetic to the needs of the people, across all races and classes yet he had a vicious streak that was sometimes necessary to curb the power of his enemies and to protect his ideals. His military prowess as a general was unmatched yet he lacked the cut-throat political acuteness in order to rule his legacy in peace time. Bolivar’s romantic notions allowed the rise of caudillos who would nearly all turn against him by the end of his life. His life was semi-divine, mystical and has inspired many to this day yet his failure to govern successfully left him impoverished at the end of his life, seeking exile. perhaps he was too successful and took on too much? Perhaps he didn;t do enough and should have continued to liberate the whole continent? This book is interesting and well-written and gives a good insight into the life of a legendary character.

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Review: Tudors

Tudors
Tudors by Peter Ackroyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second volume of Ackroyd’s history of England, this work covers one of the most astonishing and exciting periods of English history. Two of the most revered and famous monarchs existed in the Tudor period, that of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The whole reformation and what it entailed, really separated our Isles from continental history and led to our definition as a modern race. Henry’s time was defined by his cataclysmic relationships with two wives fouling foul of the executioner and he became also a pioneer of the use of divorce. It is interesting to see how the Tudors interacted with other European powers, always on the dividing line between the struggles of France and Spain. I found the Elizabethan period to be the most interesting. The Virgin Queen was truly a great monarch and it is interesting to see how this mysterious woman steered our country onto a great imperial path. It was the time of the early explorers and the start of Empire and the infamous defeat of the Spanish Armada is a highlight as is the conflict with Mary, Queen of Scots, who was ultimately dispatched at Fotheringay castle, a place I once visited as a child and a whole story that was most inspiring. I look forward to see how England progresses beyond the Tudors. It, for sure, can be said that they were a dynasty set apart from others and that their influence can still be felt today. It was a fascinating period of English history and I eagerly anticipate to see how history develops from here, as Peter Ackroyd’s six volume history continues to progress.

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Review: We All Dream Of A Team Of Carraghers: Tribute To A Liverpool Legend

We All Dream Of A Team Of Carraghers: Tribute To A Liverpool Legend
We All Dream Of A Team Of Carraghers: Tribute To A Liverpool Legend by Matt Sproston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short book, a collection of essays on the career of Liverpool Football Club’s star defender, Jamie Carragher. It was good to reminisce about Carra’s early career, when he played a utility role across the defence and midfield. The stories of Istanbul are exceptional and take me back to the great match at the Ataturk Olympic stadium, where I was a spectator. It is good to hear other key professionals views on Carragher and the best part of the book was the lengthy interview taken in the aftermath of the 2005 EC victory. I thought the criticism of Carra’s new role at Sky Sports was a bit premature. He could very well go on to become the new Hansen and I think it is a noble calling for another LFC legend. I’d like to go on to read further about Jamie Carragher and I think his autobiography has been updated recently so may go out and buy that. Jamie Carragher is one of the finest footballers ever to have graced the game and he will be remembered in Liverpool folklore forever.

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Review: Foundation

Foundation
Foundation by Peter Ackroyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peter Ackroyd is a fantastic author and, having previously read his ‘Albion’, I was keen to embark on this first of a new series of general English history. I wanted further detail on existing knowledge and the fact that this series is broken into separate volumes for each period of English history, makes it a compulsive part of my reading list. The first volume covers history from ancient times up until the start of the Tudor age. The book weaves the important political events and well documents the history of Kings yet at the same time, chapters are interspersed with more general elements of the history, covering the areas of history which affected more the general population. The range of sources compliment the narrative well and these sources are not always the more general ones associated with more standard histories. We hear tales of the common populace and these little anecdotes really help the reader to empathise more exactly with what life was actually like at the time. I was struck by the general violence of our more distant history, how it has shaped our culture, from the top down. The focus on Roman history wasn’t as pronounced as I have seen in comparative volumes of British history. In fact, through the series of conquests of England by various tribes and peoples, Ackroyd tells a story not of bast change but of an undulating continuity whereby newcomers integrate into the status quo of the island inhabitants of the realm. As a slight criticism, perhaps I expected more detail on the distant history. The time period covered by this book could have been divided into perhaps two or three or even four volumes though I’d imagine that, perhaps, a lack of sources would preclude the author from extending his ideas of history for my proposed extensions. The Plantagenets are a most amazing dynasty, full of beautiful romantic tales. The detail on the War of Roses is a more complete version of this 30 year period than I have ever read and as I headed up towards the reign of Henry VII and the initiation of the Tudors, I was turning the pages at a frantic rate. the book concludes with the first chapter of the next volume which I have already purchased and I will continue onwards with the series without pause for breath. A good book and a nice introduction to the new series of a most talented and dynamic historian.

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