He wanted to report on the fighting but, finding that other journalists had no idea what was really going on, he enlisted in order to be able to give a first-hand account of what the conditions were like.
I have read several memoirs now of this time and place but this is certainly the most realistic, not least because it makes no attempt to hide the sheer boredom he encountered through most of his time at the front. Laurie Lee, in comparison, seems to exaggerate events and his own part in them. Orwell makes no claims to be a hero; he tells us in no uncertain terms how scared he was and how cold he was.
I found myself turning over the tops of pages as I read - something I usually try to forbid myself to do – as passages I wanted to return to.
The politics are muddled and there was so much in-fighting that there is little wonder that Franco was eventually supreme. Orwell, himself, is bemused and bewildered by the way the socialist and communist groups fall out and condemn each other; much of what he saw here informed his later work such as 1984 and Animal Farm. But he says: “Since 1930 the Fascists had won all the victories; it was time they got a beating, it hardly mattered from whom.” That, though, was not to be.