Book Prologue
  Author Interview
  Snapshots & Sounds
  About the Author
  Discussion Guide
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Chapter Excerpts

The Spanish Dead

Remembering the Bullring

Images Spilling From Fingers

Save Spain!

A Wearable Pair of Boots


The Last Refugee

Guernica in Gernika
As visitors did begin to trickle into the Spanish pavilion, and as their numbers inevitably swelled in the weeks that followed, they were greeted by images that both compelled and repelled them, that attempted to lift their hearts with hope for democracy's future as well as shock them into the recognition that the world would lose something critically important if fascism ultimately prevailed in Spain. Picasso's tall, primitive, and iconic sculpture Woman with a Vase guarded the southern wall of the pavilion, and as visitors approached the building from the promenade, they immediately were met not only by the Sánchez and González sculptures and the Picasso bust, but also by a bold exhortation in large letters on the building's wall beneath a huge photomural of ranks of republican soldiers:

     We are fighting for the essential unity of Spain. We are fighting for the integrity of Spanish territory. We are fighting for the independence of our country and for the right of the Spanish people to determine their own destiny.     

Once inside the open courtyard, Calder's fountain and the sensuous movement of mercury commanded immediate attention. At either end of the long and otherwise empty space were Guernica  on the right, and on the left an enormous photograph of a man of friendly countenance and engaging eyes, beneath which were posted the words, FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA, POET KILLED AT GRANADA. Beyond the portico lay a large open-air patio, over which canvas awnings could be pulled on rainy days, leading finally to a small stage and projection booth where visitors could see, if they chose to tarry a while, three films that ran in constant successionSpanish Earth by Dutch filmmaker Joris Evens and American novelist Ernest Hemingway, Madrid '36 by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel, and The Heart of Spain by American photographer Paul Strandeach one a documentary on the larger injustices and daily horrors of the Spanish war.

Near the stage, a long and curving ramp conveyed visitors to the top floor of the boxy main building, where three more busts by Picasso were on display, as was a photograph of the ruins of the town of Gernika accompanied by the French text of Paul Eluard's new poem, "La victorie de Guernica," in which the poet assured the victims of the attack that "your deaths will serve as warning" to the world of what Hitler's war machine was capable. The exhibition space of the mid-level gallery was devoted to displays that chronicled the republic's strides toward educational and social reform, and visitors to those exhibits tended to be caught off guard by the intensity of color in Miró's muralwhich filled the stairwell connecting the three levelsand its sharp contrast with the somber presentations. Depending on the day of their visit, people from France and elsewhere in Europeand even a few Americans who had come to the continent to experience the fairwere treated to flamenco, lace-tatting, and cooking demonstrations, as well as decidedly more somber lectures, all of which were conducted at varying locations around the portico, patio, stage, and galleries.

There certainly was no common response to the Spanish pavilionso earnest, proletarian, and rather inadequately small-of-scale in comparison with the majority of buildings contributed by other nations. It was the kind of place of which French painter Amadée Ozenfant, a frequent Picasso critic, could nonetheless note, as if composing a letter, "Sunday. I am writing at a little table in the Catalan café of the Spanish pavilion. Sorrowful. The exhibition of Spanish sorrow. Beneath a poignant photograph of orphans one reads: Their parents were all they had had in the world . . . and suffering has made their expressions as profound as those of grown men.

     The huge Guernica by the great Spanish painter is before me. . . . Guernica makes one feel the frightful drama of a great people abandoned to medieval tyrants, and makes one think about that drama. The master has used only those means that properly belong to the visual arts, and yet he has made the whole world understand the immense Spanish tragedyif people have the eyes to see.

Here's proof: A chic young woman goes past my table; she's come down from the second floor where there are exhibitions of Spanish war photographs: one sees children massacred by Christians and Franco's Moors. The woman says to her daughter: "That's all terrifying! It sends shivers down my spine as if I had a spider running down my neck." She looks at Guernica and says to her child, "I don't understand what is going on there, but it makes me feel awful. It's strange, it really makes me feel as if I were being chopped to pieces. Come on, let's go. War is a terrible thing! Poor Spain!" And dragging her kid by the hand, she goes off, uncertain, into the crowd.

Excerpted from Picasso's War by Russell Martin, Copyright© 2002 by Russell Martin. Excerpted by permission of Dutton, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.