The Spanish edition of Helen Graham’s 2012 book, The War and its Shadow: Spain’s Civil War in Europe’s Long Twentieth Century is being re-published in a new ‘pocket’ edition which will be distributed across Spain with the July 2017 issue of the popular history magazine, Historia y vida. Ten thousand copies of the book will be distributed with the magazine, which is sold not only in newsagents, shops and stations, but also nationwide in the newspaper kiosks which still form an integral part of the local landscape, across both urban and rural Spain.
To this day in Spain, the civil war of 1936-39 continues to generate vicious and erosive memory wars. Helen Graham wrote her book as a contribution to the attempt to move the war from the terrain of myth into the more useful space of history, in the process allowing a more considered coming-to-terms inside Spain.
Her book shows how Spain’s war, rather than being a ‘unique’ occurrence, was integral to the ‘dark heart’ of Europe’s twentieth century, that vast convulsive continental conflict stretching from the First to the Second World Wars. It was here that the future shape of polities and societies across the continent was determined, as much in lethal confrontations between civilians as in battlefield war. In this war of civilian-on-civilian massacres, millions were killed not by invaders or strangers, but by their own compatriots, including their own neighbours. Nor has this model gone away, as the book’s opening discussion of the intra-communal killing in the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia indicates. Not a ‘light read’, then, for its Spanish audience, but one that makes the important civic point that the story, in being ‘bigger than them’, is, thus, not entirely ‘on them’ - as was the myth propagated for decades by the Franco dictatorship victorious in the civil war, and whose influence is still felt negatively today in Spain’s ‘memory wars’.