Parallel lives

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I was reading Dionisio Ridruejo’s Russian notebooks, when by chance I found another book that is almost its exact reverse. In 1941, when Ridruejo enlisted in the Blue Division, Ferran Planes, a lieutenant in the Spanish Republican army, had found a provisional refuge in the South of France.

Dionisio Ridruejo was a famous young firebrand of Spanish fascism, a vehement speaker and purveyor of rhetoric to the winning side in the Civil War. Ferran Planes, of the same age, was a municipal employee of Republican inclinations, but quite lacking in any sort of ideological vehemence. At the time of Franco’s rising in 1936 he happened to be doing his obligatory military service. On leave in his home town in Catalonia, he was shocked by the murders committed by anarchist patrols. A sudden transfer from Madrid caused him to just miss the desperate battle of the Casa del Campo, which he did not even hear of until much later. Lacking, too, in martial spirit, he kept leaving his pistol lying about, and forgetting it. Stationed on a quiet front near Granada, he applied for a week’s leave to do an exam in Catalonia, got married there and overstayed his leave by several weeks, then hurried back, to find that his colonel had hardly noticed his absence.