It's never far below the surface of things.
Recently a friend bought a flat, and tucked away under some floorboards was a cache of fascist artifacts. You see one of those above—an oil portrait of Spain's fascist dictator Francisco Franco, clad in his generalissimo uniform, in the full bloom of power. The Spanish Civil War fueled so much literature. Hemingway, Orwell, Sartre, Ramón Sender, and Graham Greene all wrote important works about the war. You notice there's only one Spanish writer in that list? Obviously, due to censorship the best Spanish books came after Franco was gone, which puts them out of our purview, time-wise. But there are numerous Spanish writers who later tackled the subject brilliantly, for example Jesús Torbado.
We think these items we've posted today are excellent examples of real-world pulp. Just below is the yoke and arrows, an old symbol from the 1400s, adopted by the fascist Falange in 1934, and widely utilizedby the nationalist rebels during the Civil War. With the help of Hitler and Mussolini they prevailed in the conflict, after which the Falange became Spain's only legal political party, with the yoke and arrows one of its main symbols. This example is made of brass. Below that is a fascist flag, and you see the yoke and arrows on it, separated left and right on the bottom. This particular flag is not a perfect match with any we saw online, but it resembles the Spanish Army flag used between 1940 and 1945.
Since we were simply tagging along that morning to look at the newly purchased flat and hadn't expected to uncover any treasures, we weren't carrying a camera or cellphone. At first we asked our friend to shoot the items on his phone, but we quickly realized he didn't understand that we needed clear, steady imagery, so we took over the photography chores and had him and PI-1 hold the stuff. But somehow we got mixed up and didn't reshoot one of the items, and all we have is our friend's blurry shot of it.
That would be the panel below, which features PI-1 holding a cross and wreath of some sort that we've been unable to find anywhere online. We really wish we'd gotten a better photo of it, but by the time we looked at what we had, which was days later, our friend had given away everything.
The bullets need no explanation, but the pennant just above does. It was made for the Reunión Nacional de Instructores de Formación Politica—the National Meeting of Political Training Instructors—which was held in 1955 in Valencia. Obviously that was a convention to train educators in how to indoctrinate students into fascist ideas.
The next panel, just below, shows a pamphlet written by politican José Maria Codón titled La Familia en la Pensamiento de la Tradición, which means The Family in the Thought of Tradition, published in 1959. Fascists were all about traditional family, and of course that meant women had few rights, being reduced in the ideals of the Falange to little more than housewives and baby incubators.
The last panel, below, shows the portrait of Francisco Franco just after we found it, and we suggest that if you have a portrait of any living politician in your home and you're not related to him or her, you're pretty far gone. The portrait is signed, but we can't identify the artist. IL something or LL something. Not Cool J, though considering Franco's regime abducted 300,000 children and sold thousands of them to couples as far away as South America, a lot of people would have fared better with a rapper in charge. Actually, it isn't fair to LL Cool J to set the bar that low. He'd do fine period. You also see in that shot PI-1's shapely stems.
"Fascist" is the epithet du jour, but these artifacts were a reminder that important historical terms are cheapened by internet hoardes applying them to every school board head, municipal bureaucrat, and cable series showrunner with whom they disagree. Some leaders and personalities definitely deserve the label, obviously. As we mentioned above, our friend gave everything away, though we weren't clear whether it was wanted for academic or personal reasons. We thought perhaps a museum might be a good place for it all, but the items don't appear to have great value. For example, we found some Codón pamphlets on sale online for three euros. But even if they aren't worth much in cash, there was value for us in seeing them. We wouldn't have traded the morning for anything.
Anything could happen there and it usually did.
We're drawn to books about places we know, so Camilo José Cela's The Hive was a natural. Originally published in 1950 and titled La colmena, the tale is largely set in a Madrid bar known as Doña Rosa's Café. There are also scenes set in apartments, streets, and other cafés, as Cela explores the lives of more than three-hundred characters in brief sketches, slowly weaving these warp and weft strands into a tapestry that ultimately represents a single character—Madrid circa 1943. Maybe that doesn't sound thrilling, but we liked it. Cela was economical yet vivid, like here, at closing time for the café:
Within half an hour the café will be empty. It will be like a man who has suddenly lost his memory.
And here, about a boy who survives by singing on the street:
He is too young in years for cynicism—or resignation—to have slashed its mark across his face, and therefore it has a beautiful, candid stupidity, the expression of one who understands nothing of anything that happens. For [him] everything that happens is a miracle: he was born by a miracle, he eats by a miracle, has lived by a miracle, and has the strength to sing by pure miracle.
Cela was a fascist, a supporter of Francisco Franco's dictatorship. His beliefs came with contradictions, for example he worked as a censor for the government, was himself banned so that The Hive had to be published first in Argentina, yet remained loyal to the regime that had financially and reputationally harmed him. He even became an informer. In Cela's writing there's humor, but also coldness, a sense of observing small and pathetic people. For someone born into material comfort in a Spain where many families retain unearned wealth for hundreds of years, his subtle judgements came across to us as cruel, the product of a person who looked closely at everyone but himself. The book isn't overtly political, though, which makes it easier to focus on the skill that eventually won him a Nobel Prize.
The edition you see here is from Ace Books in 1959 with an uncredited cover. We went back and forth on this artist. We want to say it's Sandro Symeoni, but we don't have enough cred to make that call definitively. It looks like some of the items he painted, but publishing companies sometimes sought art of similar styles, or directed illustrators to produce something similar to what another artist had provided. During the late 1950s and early ’60s Ace Books had many covers in this general style. That said, compare the close-ups below. The first is from the above cover, and the rest are from confirmed Symeonis. If The Hive wasn't painted by the same person, then whoever did paint it went beyond merely working in a similar style—he was a thief.
Howell Dodd shows his political side.
Here's something unusual. This is a piece by legendary men's magazine and paperback illustrator Howell Dodd, obviously political in nature, titled “Danse Macabre” and commenting on Francoista fascism in post civil war Spain. Francisco Franco, like other former European dictators, continues to loom large over the country he ruled. Laws were only recently passed that might allow for his body to be exhumed from the massive mausoleum he had built for himself, for finally making a census of the estimated 500,000 victims of the Spanish Civil War, for investigations into the fates of tens of thousands who disappeared under fascist rule, and to find out what happened to 300,000 children who between 1939 and 1975 were stolen from their parents and adopted by—i.e. sold to—well-connected families. Some of those children even ended up with childless couples in the U.S. and Latin America. So it was quite a danse indeed. We aren't sure how much Dodd was aware of when he painted this item, but the visual is encompassing regardless. You see a couple of close-ups of the piece below, and you can see Dodd in completely different mode here and here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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