The Crimes of Franco

By Paul Preston - December 1, 2003

Reviewer: Professor Paul Preston from London, United Kingdom

This is a deeply moving, indeed deeply upsetting book, which has much to say to several different audiences. The central narrative relates the quest by man brought up in the United States to discover the fate of his mother in Spain during the Civil War of the 1930s. His father was the world famous novelist, Ramón J.Sender, author of Seven Red Sundays and a well-known leftist. A target for the military rebels because of being married to Sender, Amparo Barayón fled to her native city of Zamora hoping to be safe there. In fact, she was imprisoned, tortured and eventually executed - her horrendous fate typical of what happened to many innocent women at the hands of the supporters of General Franco. In that sense, this book is a major contribution to the history of right-wing atrocities during the Spanish War.

In addition, however, the subsequent story of how Ramón J. Sender took his two children to the United States and then virtually abandoned them is also horrific in its way and makes for a tragic psychological drama that will be of interest to many people not concerned with Spanish history. The story of Ramón Sender Barayón's quest also happens to be a rivetting detective story.

I read the first edition of this book about six years ago and immediately bought several copies to give to friends and their reaction confirmed my own. An important and neglected masterpiece!

Professor Paul Preston, International History Department of The London School of Economics,
is the author of a number of books including "Franco a Biography," "The Coming of the Spanish
Civil War," "Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy."