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George Orwell’s Barcelona

Written by Miguel

Eric Arthur Blair, better known in popular culture by his pen name George Orwell, was a British novelist, essayist, journalist and socialist. Best known for his prophetic novel 1984 (written in 1949) or the acid satire of Animal Farm (1945), Orwell’s precious bibliography also notably includes “Homage to Catalonia“.

Related article: The best bookstores in Barcelona

Adventures in Barcelona

Photo via Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay

First published in 1938, Orwell’s tribute to the region recounts his real-life experiences living in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, from his arrival on the Christmas of 1936 to his escape in the summer of 1937, as he was a target of the Stalinist secret police.

Initially intending to document the conflict as a journalist, Orwell was soon caught up in the heat of the revolutionary movement, deciding to join the British Independent Labour Party in the fight against fascism in Spain.

“Homage to Catalonia” is thus a memoir of a troubled time in the history of Spain and the region, seen through the eyes of one of the most important writers of the last century.

Related article: 4 books to read that are set in Barcelona

The places

Hotel Continental Until this day, many foreigners stay at this Las Ramblas hotel due to its mentions in Orwell’s book; this is where he lived with his wife during his stay in Barcelona. After things went awry between the several leftist factions, the Stalinist agents actually went to the hotel while he was absent, intimidated his wife, searched his room and stole his diary. Located in the centre of Barcelona and still retaining most of its traditional charm, Hotel Continental is a piece of the city’s history by itself.

Address: La Rambla, 138, 08002 Barcelona

Teatro Poliorama During shootings between factions in Las Ramblas, Orwell stayed in this legendary theatre for three days and nights in order to observe the action from the roof. From this area of Las Ramblas it is still possible to identify many of the architectonic features that the British writer described in his book.

Address: Carrer la Rambla, 115, 08002 Barcelona

Liceu metro station (L3/Green Line) – Down from Las Ramblas is the Liceu metro station, which Orwell saw harbour the crowds during a major street shooting.

Felip Neri Square One of the most painful memories described by Orwell in his book is the bombing of this square and its church by Mussolini’s air force in 1983, killing several people. Now a peaceful place in a corner of the Gothic Quarter, the square still bears its war wounds with a pride and dignity that only adds to its discreet beauty.

Legacy in Barcelona

Photo by cdrummbks via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Photo by cdrummbks via Visual Hunt

Plaça de George Orwell is the only tangible reference to the writer in the capital of Catalonia. Located behind Barcelona’s city hall, it features several bars and shops, attracting plenty of young people. Ironically, the area named after the author of “1984” is signalled as being under surveillance, and if you look around you can actually see a few cameras. This is probably due to the fact that it had become a preferred place for young people to consume illegal substances.

There you go. Although this subject touches on a hurtful part of history that people often prefer to forget, if you’re interested in the history of Spain, as well as that of Barcelona, we highly recommend that you read the book and take a tour through the places mentioned, as it will only add to the cultural richness that pervades the city nowadays. Luckily, you get to see a much more beautiful and pleasant Barcelona than George Orwell did. Enjoy all the wonderful things the city has to give you and have fun! As always, feel free to speak your mind using the comment box below.

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George Orwell’s Barcelona
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About the author

Miguel

Miguel is a freelance writer and copywriter who believes that words can really take you places - so hop on his words and dare to discover the wonders of Barcelona with him.

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