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‘Paracuellos: Volume 1’ – TPB Review

It’s not often remembered now that Spain was a dictatorship easily the equal of Mussolini’s Italy well into the 1970s, tolerated by the United States in the name of anticommunism. In the aftermath of their brutal civil war and WWII, during which Spain was officially neutral but did little to disguise its Axis sympathies, many families were broken up. Often, this was the result of one or both parents being interned for political reasons. Carlos Giménez’ Paracuellos (IDW, available in April 2016), translated into English by Sonya Jones, is a very revealing first-hand account of growing up in one of the Auxilio Social homes that existed to take care of children who were left orphaned by this or whose parents were otherwise unable to take care of them – a dimension of history all too often neglected by academic accounts.

Originally published six months after Falangist dictator Francisco Franco’s death, at a time when discussion of the regime’s oppression was still discouraged, Paracuellos‘ short vignettes are drawn in a simple, yet still detailed, style almost reminiscent of comic strips. They show a life of uncertainty, deprivation, strict regimentation, and outright abuse at the hands of the home’s staff and even some of the fellow children. The Dickensian dimensions are tempered mercifully with small, fleeting moments of joy picked up through visits from family members, collaboration between the children on such things as puppet shows, and, of course, comics which were highly prized. It’s almost a childhood version of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, showing how the human spirit can manage to survive despite all attempts to beat it down. Excellent historical essays, including photographs by Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Kentucky Carmen Moreno-Nuño and Spanish comics historian Antonio Martin, provide additional context for the reader, and the brief foreword by Will Eisner is a glowing testimonial.

Highly recommended!




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