"HOMAGE TO CATALONIA" is George Orwell's tribute to Spain. He, like thousands of other foreigners sympathetic to the Spanish Republican government, had arrived in Spain in late 1936 to take up arms in its defense against the Nationalists, who, led by conservative, reactionary elements in the Spanish military (and aided materially by Hitler and Mussolini), were endeavoring to impose their authority over the country.
Upon arrival in Spain, Orwell is hastily trained and sent to the front. A few months later, while on leave in Barcelona, he finds himself caught up in the political infighting and bloodletting there among the various leftist elements supportive of the Republicans (chief among them the Communists). Given his association with a political movement now deemed anathema by Madrid, whose disparate elements are repressing it, Orwell is lucky to escape the clutches of the police and is sent back to the front. He's there for a short time before being wounded in the throat by a bullet that barely misses striking an artery and leaves him temporarily with a frail voice and weakened right arm and hand. He is shunted from hospital to hospital for treatment. Luckily, he manages to obtain a medical discharge, and together with his wife, barely escapes Barcelona and finds refuge in France.
While awaiting transit back to England, Orwell reflects back on his time in Spain. Despite his hardships, he loves the country and has a deep sympathy for its people. He admits that "the smell of the trenches, the mountain dawns stretching away into inconceivable distances, the frosty crackle of bullets, the roar and glare of bombs; the clear cold light of the Barcelona mornings, and the stamp of boots in the barrack yard, back in December when people still believed in the revolution; ...Good luck to them all; I hope they win their war and drive all the foreigners out of Spain, Germans, Russians and Italians alike. This war, in which I played so ineffectual a part, has left me with memories that are mostly evil, and yet I do not wish that I had missed it."
I used to wonder why it was that so many people outside of Spain went there during the Civil War to defend its government against a Fascist takeover. Now, having read '[b:Homage to Catalonia', I'm much closer to a fuller understanding.