Academic journal article Hecate

Rose Macaulay's and No Man's Wit: The Forgotten Spanish Civil War Novel

Academic journal article Hecate

Rose Macaulay's and No Man's Wit: The Forgotten Spanish Civil War Novel

Article excerpt

In June 1937, the editorial staff of The Left Review published a pamphlet entitled 'Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War.'1 This pamphlet included the responses of almost one hundred and fifty United Kingdom poets and writers to the questions: 'Are you for, or against, the legal government and the people of Republican Spain? Are you for, or against, Franco and fascism?' The vast majority of those who responded to the leading questions the pamphlet posed replied, unsurprisingly, that they were against fascism. Within this group was the simple response 'against Franco' by Rose Macaulay, a writer whose work has been all but forgotten in the fifty-two years since her death. This paper is a discussion of the representation of the Spanish Civil War in Rose Macaulay's And No Man's Wit (1940), that questions the lack of critical appreciation this novel has received. In discussing the worth of Macaulay's novel, this work also explores the genre of women's war writing and addresses the debate which is often associated with this genre. Critical to the discussion of Macaulay's novel is the Spanish Civil War itself and Macaulay's difficult relationship with pacifism as she construed it.

The 1930s was an uncertain time for pacifists; the rise of Nazism, the fall of Abyssinia to Italy and the growing power of both Hitler and Mussolini, coupled with the growing unrest in Spain, led many to consider the possible need for intervention. To deplore violence of any kind and refuse to acknowledge the need for some resistance to the forces of fascism was an approach that was both naïve and ignorant. However in 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, although it was clear that both Germany and Italy were aiding the Spanish fascists in their rebellion against the Republic with military and economic support, both France and Great Britain agreed that a policy of non-intervention was the best method of containing the violent conflict.2 In August of 1936, twenty-seven nations, including Germany and Italy signed non-intervention agreements. However, aid to the Spanish right and left continued to be supplied by Germany and Italy, Russia and Portugal respectively, and this 'underscored the fact that Spain's troubles could not easily be divorced from events in the wider world.'3 Thousands of volunteers, both soldiers and civilians, left for Spain, determined to participate in what was portrayed as an ideological war. What ideologues who personally engaged with this struggle found in Spain though, was far more complicated and deeply entrenched in Spanish culture and history than the simple argument 'against fascism' proposed.

Set in 1939, in the weeks prior to the Nazis' march into Poland, Rose Macaulay's novel is a complex account of the often-oversimplified Spanish ideological conflict. Dr. Kate Marlowe, 'a mother, a doctor, a liberal, and a humane, active, fussy woman' (4),4 her daughter Betsey and son Hugh, are driving around Spain, just months after the conclusion of the civil war, in search of Dr Marlowe's second son, Guy who came to Spain to fight for the Republican cause as a member of the International Brigade, and seemingly disappeared since leaving his fellow Brigaders at the Pyrenean pass in February of 1939. Accompanying the Marlowes is the ethereal Ellen Green, Guy's fiancée, who is revealed in the second half of the novel to be halfmermaid;5 and Ernie Kent, 'a very common young man from Kidderminster' (14) who had fought beside Guy on the Ebro (one of the last battles lost before the International Brigade officially left Spain) and who was the last of the small party to see Guy alive. Dr. Marlowe's attempts to explain their predicament achieve little response from Spanish officials and it becomes apparent to their group that, in order to make some progress in their search for Guy, they need the assistance of someone powerful 'of the Right' (16), 'who had influence with the government and knew what ropes to pull' (107). …

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