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Arturo Pérez-Reverte, witness from the trench


A civil war is horror faced with horror, he says Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Spain, 1951) in Fire line, his most recent novel, in which he is situated, for the first time, in the trench of the Spanish Civil War to tell direct testimonies of families that were divided or that suffered the consequences of fighting between Republicans and Francoists.

The book, published by Alfaguara, He will arrive in Mexico in two weeks and yesterday he had his first presentation at the Hotel Palace in Madrid, where Pérez-Reverte spoke about the reasons that led him to capture the human record of a war that begins to lose its memory.

Why, after 35 years as a writer, did you decide to bring up the subject of Spanish Civil War?, She was asked. “I always avoided the topic. I used it once as a backdrop to a story, but never in a direct way. But there are things that have now changed ”.

I knew the people who made the civil war because I was born in 1951 and those who had done it told me out loud. My father, my uncle, my grandfather, my father’s friends, cousins, who were on different sides. So I had direct testimony from both sides and I had that first-hand version, “he said.

Those people who didn’t want to talk about it after the war. Later I learned that it was because they did not want to contaminate us with resentment, pain, suffering and the bitterness of what the war was on both sides, “recalled the author, who had referred to the issue only tangentially in The tango of the old guard and in the series Falcó.

All those characters, he added, have been dying and the real, human and direct testimony has been disappearing with them. This has caused that the environment only remains the ideological discourse that, in current times, is used in a political way.

But when only ideology remains and human testimony disappears, the idea becomes easily manipulated, because there is no longer the direct witness to confront it, “he said.

The also author of Tough dogs don’t dance Y The patient sniper recognized that the central idea of ​​the civil war is clear.

There was a legitimate side that was the Republic and another illegitimate that was the Francoist side. Nobody disputes it. But when you zoom in on the people, the trench and not the rear, everything is different ”.

Because there are people who participated forcedly, who acted by chance or of their own free will, others who were trapped. “And although the general plan does not change, you also realize that it is not a war of four generals, four priests and bankers against the Spanish people, but something more complex.”

What to do to understand it? The Spanish author himself wondered. “You have to get closer to the people who waged that war, to those who fought in the front and not in the rear, in the cafes or holding rallies, but to the people who were fighting and who really paid the expensive, hard and terrible price. of that war ”.

They are our grandparents, uncles, parents… I think it was appropriate (to write) a novel, not a history book. It should be noted: I am not a historian, but a novelist and I have the right to use the material as I want ”.

And he insisted: “I do not intend to make a history, but to bring human testimonies, in a narrative and literary way, so that we can see how (the combatants) were and that we remember that our parents and grandparents were there and how they had a bad time.”


According to the author, Fire line takes place in the first 10 days of the battle of the Ebro, considered the last great offensive of the Republic and the beginning of its final fall.

In essence, it is a choral portrait that shows the best and worst of each side, based on two fictional elements: the XI Mixed Brigade of the republican army, and the town of Castellets del Segre, where young combatants fight to the point of exhaustion.

In the end, the central idea of ​​this book, Pérez-Reverte explained, “is to restore the connection with the human testimony and thus de-ideologize not history, but the people who were fighting, because not every combatant was a Francoist nor the other was a Republican, but it was something much more complex.


Pérez-Reverte also assured that the woman was the great loser of the civil war.

In three years (of war) he lost a century of progress, advances and modernity. In three years she stopped being a free woman and owner of herself, of her body and of her life to once again be a submissive slave of confessors, husbands and well-wishers ”, said the author of The Queen of the South Y Cape Trafalgar.

Pérez-Reverte recognized that in this fiction he needed women in battle for many reasons.

I did not want to tell the story of the folk militia, but trained and disciplined women, with technical and professional training, qualified and serious women who knew what they were playing for, ”he said.

That is why I decided to create the Transmission Unit so that these women could intervene in the battle, ”he explained.

Finally, he asserted that this narration is about the spanish memory, so it cannot be seen as an American movie or series.

It is a novel about desolation, horror, in the trench, in the mud, in the shit. There is nothing noble. I want the reader to see the war, slide on the shells on the ground, be scared, smell it, ”he said.

And he affirmed that in his journey as a war correspondent saw a lot of people die in so many ways, “but I never saw someone die for the country, for the republic, for God or the flag, but for concrete things: a little water, a cigarette, out of fear, or because Manolo, who is his friend, They have killed him and he wants to avenge him ”.