Published by Viking in 1991. Laurie Lee’s “A Moment of War’, recounts his experiences in the bone-chilling winter of 1937 when he volunteered to join the ill prepared and ill equipped International Brigade made up of the various hotchpotch of jetsam from Europe and beyond taking on the might of the Fascist empires trying out their destructive armoury in preparation for the Second World War.
Lee records that, starving and shivering, these untrusted mostly young men were treated with suspicion which cost many of them their lives before ever going into battle with no weapons.
One wonders how the author survived. His diaries did not and he is working from memory.
Laurie Lee’s beautifully elegant descriptive prose even lifts the desperate narrative.
I finished reading the book this afternoon.
The book jacket is attributed to Keith Bowen. Is it simply an oversight that no-one is credited with the superb black and white illustrations amplifying the text?
These pictures capture the essence of the time and place; the character portraits reflecting the moods as described by the author.
P.S. The following extract from an e-mail from our friend John Jones confirms that Keith Bowen was the illustrator of the drawings and adds important information about child refugees from Guernica:” I read “A Moment of War” a few years back and while I remembered the illustrations, the cover was unfamiliar. On checking I found that my copy is the edition published in Penguin Books in 1992 and that the cover does use a different illustration, by Roger Coleman, but inside the illustrations are the same as your Viking copy and happily Penguin name Keith Bowen as the illustrator. He has produced a lot of work portraying Snowdonia, which was my father’s home, and the shepherds of that area. Another interesting association for me is that in the spring of 1937 Southampton was the port of entry to the UK for some 4,000 Basque child refugees (Los Niños) who were evacuated after the bombing of Guernica. Their arrival from Bilbao on SS Habana is commemorated by a plaque on the Civic Centre.”
This afternoon we finally joined our friends from across the Pond and started on the first two episodes of the first series of The Crown. Episode 2 took me back to my primary school and The Dragon’s Tears’.
Later my choice of the finger food was just one spring roll with chilli sauce. I went to bed early.