Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Some quotes from Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell on the Café Moka #Barcelona

Some quotes from Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell on the Café Moka

George Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia (1938), references the Café Moka in many spots located next to the then POUM headquarters, the cafe is still there on La Rambla, but heavily (some say brutally) modernized.

For more history of Orwell in Barcelona, see "George Orwell's Barcelona" by Nigel Richardson. The Telegraph (21 April 2013)

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Next door to the POUM building there was a café with an hotel above it, called the Café Moka. The day before twenty or thirty armed Assault Guards had entered the café and then, when the fighting started, had suddenly seized the building and barricaded themselves in. Presumably they had been ordered to seize the café as a preliminary to attacking the POUM offices later. p.114

The pavement was covered with broken glass from the sign over the Café Moka, and two cars that were parked outside, one of them Kopp’s official car, had been riddled with bullets and their windscreens smashed by bursting bombs. pp. 115-16

The domes commanded the street, and a few men posted up there with rifles could prevent any attack on the POUM buildings. The caretakers at the cinema were CNT members and would let us come and go. As for the Assault Guards in the Café Moka, there would be no trouble with them; they did not want to fight and would be only too glad to live and let live. p. 116

Up at our end of the Ramblas, round the Plaza de Cataluña, the position was so complicated that it would have been quite unintelligible if every building had not flown a party flag. The principal landmark here was the Hotel Colón, the headquarters of the PSUC, dominating the Plaza de Cataluña. In a window near the last O but one in the huge ‘Hotel Colón’ that sprawled across its face they had a machine-gun that could sweep the square with deadly effect. pp.117-18

In our position it was strangely peaceful. The Assault Guards in the Café Moka had drawn down the steel curtains and piled up the café furniture to make a barricade. Later half a dozen of them came onto the roof, opposite to ourselves, and built another barricade of mattresses, over which they hung a Catalan national flag. But it was obvious that they had no wish to start a fight. Kopp had made a definite agreement with them: if they did not fire at us we would not fire at them. He had grown quite friendly with the Assault Guards by this time, and had been to visit them several times in the Café Moka. Naturally they had looted everything drinkable the café possessed, and they made Kopp a present of fifteen bottles of beer. p.118

Our only chance was to attack them first. Kopp was waiting for orders on the telephone; if we heard definitely that the POUM was outlawed we must make preparations at once to seize the Café Moka. p.124

About a dozen men, mostly Germans, had volunteered for the attack on the Café Moka, if it came off. We should attack from the roof, of course, some time in the small hours, and take them by surprise; they were more numerous, but our morale was better, and no doubt we could storm the place, though people were bound to be killed in doing so. p.125

My wife had come down from the hotel in case a nurse should be needed. I lay down on the sofa, feeling that I would like half an hour’s rest before the attack on the ‘Moka’, in which I should presumably be killed. I remember the intolerable discomfort caused by my pistol, which was strapped to my belt and sticking into the small of my back. p.125

The Assault Guards were still behind their barricades in the ‘Moka’; on neither side were the fortified buildings evacuated. Everyone was rushing round and trying to buy food. And on every side you heard the same anxious questions: ‘Do you think it’s stopped? Do you think it’s going to start again?’ ‘It’—the fighting—was now thought of as some kind of natural calamity, like a hurricane or an earthquake, which was happening to us all alike and which we had no power of stopping. And sure enough, almost immediately—I suppose there must really have been several hours’ truce, but they seemed more like minutes than hours—a sudden crash of rifle-fire, like a June cloud-burst, sent everyone scurrying; the steel shutters snapped into place, the streets emptied like magic, the barricades were manned, and ‘it’ had started again. p.126

The Assault Guards were still holding the Café Moka and had not taken down their barricades, but some of them brought chairs out and sat on the pavement with their rifles across their knees. I winked at one of them as I went past and got a not unfriendly grin; he recognized me, of course. p.129

out. It was easy enough to dodge the Valencian Assault Guard patrols; the danger was the local Assault Guards in the ‘Moka’, who were well aware that we had rifles in the observatory and might give the show away if they saw us carrying them across. p.130

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