Socialist Worker

Exploring the trauma of Guernica through love and loss

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2146

The novel’s cover

The novel’s cover

The continuing power of the events of 26 April 1937 are shown in Dave Boling’s debut novel. It follows the lives of the Ansotegui and Navarro families from the end of the 19th century through to the beginning of the Second World War.

They are proud people from the Basque country, angry at the oppression of their culture under the Spanish state.

After Miguel Navarro has a run in with the local police he runs away to the town of Guernica.

Against the backdrop of a society gripped by tension, and then the outbreak of the civil war, he meets Miren Ansotegui.

They fall in love, marry, and have a daughter, Catalina.

They believe that despite the chaos all around them, their love for one another can keep them safe.

But that faith is cruelly destroyed by waves of German bombers.

The two chapters devoted to the day of the bombing are the most powerful section of the novel.

The inhumanity of bomber commander Wolfram von Richthofen and his Condor Legion, which made Guernica a living hell, is superbly brought out.

Blood flows in the drains, animals burn, fighter planes indiscriminately cut people down and buildings are destroyed, burying their inhabitants beneath them.

The destruction continues for hours until the German fighters return to their base.

The survivors are left to pick up the remnants of their lives under the new fascist state.

Boling has written a very good novel that helps reveal the human tragedy of Guernica – and all of the other “Guernicas” that were to follow.

Dave Boling

Guernica is available from Bookmarks. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to »

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Article information

Tue 7 Apr 2009, 19:04 BST
Issue No. 2146
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