The War Baby is a compelling account of bravery and betrayal in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Amid the last, faltering, steps to repulse General Franco’s fascists, a young British Communist, Frank Brendan, heads to Barcelona on behalf of the Party. He becomes part of a hedonistic elite at the helm of what’s left of Republican Spain before being sent to the battle front during the ill-fated Ebro offensive of 1938 – Republican Spain’s last stand against the advancing falangists. He is a political commissar to the British troops among the International Brigades; his task is to ‘expose the bad elements’.
Eventually, Brendan picks up a gun and joins an increasingly brutal and unequal battle alongside ill-equipped Volunteers. Few of the British Brigaders make it out alive; none are unscathed. The War Baby is a blistering account of the corrupting of the struggle against fascism. It is deeply critical of international Communism while compassionate and generous towards those who enrolled under that flag.
Alexander Baron was born Joseph Alexander Bernstein in 1917 to Jewish parents. His first novel, From the City, From the Plough, a fictionalised account of the D-Day landings, was published in 1948 and sold over a quarter of a million copies. Prior to World War II Baron was politically active on the left. While he continued to write novels he was also a successful screenwriter, writing scripts for Hollywood and for the BBC. Since Baron died in 1999 his novels have been republished several times, testifying to a strong resurgence of interest in his work among the reading public as well as among critics and academics.
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