My House in Málaga
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“Hats off to Clapton Press for recovering and publishing this vivid book first published in 1938, which is hard and expensive to find and one of the few eye witness accounts (in English) of Malaga during part of Spain’s Civil War”
William Chislett, Author of Spain: What Everyone Needs to Know (OUP)
Review by Simon Matthews.
In 1934 Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell retired at the age of 70 from a distinguished career as Secretary of the Zoological Society of London. During his tenor he had been the driving force behind the creation of the Whipsnade Zoo, which opened in 1931.
He moved to Málaga for what he expected to be a “peaceful old age” and spent his time writing his memoirs and translating novels by Ramón J. Sender. Then came the rebellion of 1936. While most other British residents fled to Gibraltar, Sir Peter was one of the few to stay in order to protect his house and garden, and his servants.
Although an open sympathiser with the Anarchist cause, he provided a safe haven to the wife and five daughters of Tomás Bolín, members of a notorious right wing family, eventually helping them escape across the border.
He later offered shelter to Arthur Koestler. When the Italian forces sent by Mussolini to support the rebellion took Málaga, they were both arrested by Tomás Bolín’s ungrateful nephew, Luis, who was Franco’s chief propagandist and who had vowed that if he ever laid his hands on Koestler he would “shoot him like a dog”.
This is his memoir of that period, first published in 1937.
“Fascism is a pathological condition, a disease of Society. Unfortunately it is contagious. Its leading symptoms are exaggerated selfishness and moral atrophy. In its more virulent phase, as in Germany, Italy and Spain, it glorifies and justifies crime. In its weaker forms, as in the British Government and the majorities of the two Houses of Parliament, it appears as a complacent and selfish cowardice. But it is the same disease, and I fear that a very slight change in economic conditions would produce the virulent phase even in England.”
— Sir Peter Chalmers-Mitchell, Spain and the World, Vol. 1. Nos. 25-26. London, 10 Dec 1937
Illustration: “El almendro” by David Phillips-Miles