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Amparo García del Rio
Seven Red Sundays is Sender’s third novel. Published in Spanish as Siete domingos rojos, it forms a prominent landmark in modernist Spanish literature. It was written in 1932 in the aftermath of the unsuccessful anarcho-syndicalist ‘declarations of Libertarian Communism’ (uprisings) in Figols, Berga, and Cardona in Alto Llobregat (Catalonia), and also in Alocorisa and Teruel (Aragon). The complex story covers seven consecutive days, each a ‘Red Sunday’ of socially transformative class struggle: agitation, street fighting, and a revolutionary general strike triggered by the killing of three anarcho-syndicalists by the police during a banned protest meeting. Following mass labour unrest heightened by the betrayals of the anti-working-class Second Republic, a public funeral in Madrid ends in street fighting, sabotage and the prospect of a nationwide general strike. Sabotage throws the city into darkness, leading to mass arrests, and more state terror, including the torture and cold-blooded murder of union activists by police applying the ‘Law of Flight’ (legitimising the shooting of escaping prisoners). Sender’s use of perspective — in which he looks at the network of connections and the unfolding course of events from ten different viewpoints — explores not only the ambiguities, selfless heroism, frailties and inner conflicts of the central personages struggling for change: love, sublime faith, self sacrifice, religion, betrayal and treachery. It is also a hauntingly beautiful and tender book that captures the mood and feel of revolution as well as the spirit of the Second Spanish Republic in 1932.
‘Magnificent… a masterpiece.’” — New York Times Book Review.
‘An extraordinary book, extremely intelligent. As exciting as a long ski run on a crisp morning and as beautiful and dangerous.’ — New Statesman.
Ramón José Sender Garcés, anarchist journalist and author, was born in Chalamera de Cinca, Huesca, in Northern Aragón, Spain on 3 February 1901 and died in San Diego, California, USA on 16 January 1982.
Sender moved to Alcañiz (Teruel) aged 16 where he worked as a messenger for a pharmacist while studying for his baccalaureate at the College of the Escalopion Fathers. In 1918 he moved to Madrid, again working for a pharmacist, and began frequenting the Ateneo de Madrid where he came into contact with writers such as Ramón María del Valle Inclán and Miguel de Unamuno. At Madrid University he studied Philosophy and Letters while developing his literary talents writing for Nueva España and El País. In 1922 he was conscripted to fight in the Spanish colonial war to suppress the Berber rebel Republic of the Rif and served two years in Morocco. His first novel, Imán (Magnet) (1930), was based on these North African experiences. Demobbed in 1924 Sender returned to Madrid where he found employment as an editor at El Sol. Around this time he joined the journalists’ section of the CNT (National Confederation of Labour), the anarcho-syndicalist workers’ union, and was also active in the Spartacus anarchist group. Imprisoned for anti-monarchist agitation in 1926 he spent some time in Madrid’s Cárcel Modelo (Model Prison), another experience he used as the basis for his second novel O. P. (Orden Público) (Public Order) (1931).
‘IF ANYONE should ask me: ‘Do you think that anarcho-syndicalism is an ultimate factor in Spanish politics?’ my answer is ‘Yes’ and that neither today nor ever can it be neglected. Lastly, if anyone should beg me to be explicit as to my own view on anarcho-syndicalism as a political fact, I return to what I have said already. Here is my formula; it is a non-political formula. People too full of humanity dream of freedom, of the good, of justice, giving these an emotional and individualistic significance. Carrying such a load, an individual can hope for the respect and loyalty of his relations and friends, but if he should hope to influence the general social structure, he nullifies himself in heroic and sterile rebellion. No man can approach mankind giving his all and expecting all in return. Societies are not based on the virtues of individuals, but on a system which controls defects by limiting the freedom of everyone. Naturally the system takes a different form under feudalism, capitalism and communism. Let anarcho-syndicalists invent their own system, and until they have attained it, go on dreaming of a strange state of society in which all men are as disinterested as St Francis of Assisi, bold as Spartacus, and able as Newton and Hegel. But behind the dream there is a human truth of the most generous kind — sometimes, let me insist, absolutely sublime. Is not that enough?’
— Ramón J Sender, Seven Red Sundays
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