Monday, December 2, 2013

Graphic Novels about the Spanish Civil War

I have introduced several graphic novels before in this blog. I find that they are very good at motivating students to read. Moreover, they deal with very interesting topics and the exciting graphics entice reluctant readers to begin reading too.

The topic of the Spanish Civil War has not been a very popular topic for the graphic novels until recently. During Franco´s regime, the Spanish Civil War was a theme which many authors did not want to deal with out of fear for the censorship. After Franco´s death in 1975, Spanish society wanted to forget the dark times and enjoy the recently recovered freedom. It seemed that speaking about the Spanish Civil War would open old wounds. However, in the late 1980´s and 90´s a new generation of Spanish people and young writers started to ask questions about our past, about the fate of many Spanish citizens who were killed during the war or during Franco´s dictatorship or had to exile to another country. It was in many cases the grandchildren of these dead or exiled people who started to ask questions.

In this link from online newspaper, Público, we can get information about some comics about the Spanish Civil war, the exile of the republicans or the fate of those who lost the war and stayed in Spain during the almost 40 years of Franco´s regime. Also in this post in the blog Alita News there is recommended list of graphic novels set on the Spanish Civil War.

Although I have not read some of the suggested graphic novels that appear in the two given links, my suggestion for a Spanish Bilingual or IB program is:

Tristísima ceniza by Mikel Begoña and Iñaket. This novel recreates the story of Frank Capa and Gerda Taro when they meet in Paris after fleeing their home countries after the rise of anti-Semitism. From there they decide to travel to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War. Gerda will travel to Barcelona and Capa to the Basque country. In the novel we follow Capa´s journey to Sollube battle just before the take of Bilbao, the biggest city in Northern Spain, by the Francoist army. Capa meets Luis Lezama in one of his trips to the front to take pictures. Luis had just been freed  by the Republican government and was going to join Franco's side again. This graphic novel can serve as a companion to those interested in learning about the lives of the photojournalists who went to Spain.

El Ángel de la Retirada deals with the lives of  the Spanish who went into exile after the Spanish Civil War. The authors, Spanish artist, Paco Roca, and French novelist and poet, Serguei Dounovetz, wanted to portrait the feelings of the descendants of those republicans who, after so many years, still have many unanswered questions about what happened.

Victoria is a young French with Spanish ancestry. She lives in Béziers, a small city in Southern France which is celebrating in 2009 the 120 years anniversary of the Spanish colony. Through Victoria´s eyes we understand the feelings of these people still struggling to find their own identities and trying to keep their roots in France. Through her dreams we experience the history of the Spanish diaspora to France. It started over 100 years ago when Spanish peasants went to pick up grapes and continued after the Spanish Civil War. When the refuges arrived in France, they were sent to concentration camps under very harsh conditions. This was the beginning of 1939 and when the Second World War started months later, many of these Spanish prisoners were forced to join the French army and fight the Nazis. The past and present of the Spanish colony are shown through Victoria´s eyes and her own experience.

This is a very interesting graphic novel that deals with very important issues and shows, one more time, the unfair treatment the Republican refugees received. Unfortunately, as we have know, history continues to repeat itself and today, thousands of refugees are unfairly treated all over the world. I also find very  meaningful the fact that the novel has been created by a Spanish artist, Paco Roca, and the script by French writer, Serguei Dounovetz .

Un Largo Silencio by Miguel Gallardo is a unique graphic novel in many ways. It is a homage of the author to his father, Francisco Gallardo, who fought with the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War and only spoke to his family about his traumatic experience after Franco's death in 1975. It is the same case as many Spanish people who were silent for too long. The book contains cartoons by Miguel Gallardo which are interlaced with the texts that his own father wrote depicting his memories from his childhood in a small village, going through his involvement in  the Spanish Civil War and his exile in the concentration camps in France. At the beginning of the 1940's he returned to Spain and was imprisoned again until, thanks to some friends' help, he could settle in Barcelona and get a job. The story finishes when Francisco meets his future wife. Miguel Gallardo kept his father's writing without any further editing. The result is a fresh and emotional account of his experience.

It is an easy novel to read that shows life in Spain before the arrival of the Republic. An impoverished society with deep differences among the classes. Then we follow Francisco through his struggle in the Spanish Civil War and his exile in France. A beautiful story full of tenderness and filial love. It would be my first suggestion for anyone learning about the Spanish Civil War.

Interview to Miguel Gallardo talking about his work.

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