Deathís Other Kingdom is an eye-witness account of the start of the Civil War. Gamel, an American poet and the wife of writer Gerald Brenan, paints an evocative picture of life in a poor Andalucian village in the 1930ís and the ensuing perversities, changes and fears as the Civil War atrocities close in.
Gamel and Gerald lived in a quiet backwater village and presumed rather innocently, as did many other foreign nationals, that the rising animosities wouldnít disrupt their lives. How wrong they were!
Gamel writes about the people, their lives and the emotional turmoil and inevitable changes that occur even to the most peace-loving people in the midst of awful conflict. Fear, rage and worst of all revenge rape human beings of their previous sense of loyalty.
The book is an eye-opener to the incredible bombastic attitude of the mainly British Ex-pats of the day, and Gamel portrays beautifully yet another warped ideology in those awful days of conflict.
This book has been on my must read pile (a list on paper) for a while and I wasnít disappointed. Itís a rare insight into the imminent conflict and all the better in my eyes because itís written by a woman, which brings to light new insights of the life and times.
Itís simple yet deep, readable and touching without violence, yet the violent days are felt rather than having to be graphically lived through.
Gamel has some great characters in her employment that sum up years of hardship and deprivation, and who display a loyalty and stalwartness to their ďinnocent foreignĒ employers.
This is a beautiful historical piece of writing and not really about war itself but about the effect of war on innocent peopleís lives.
If learning more about Spainís past, the effects of the Civil War and life for the locals in the harsh campo of the 1930ís this is a book youíll walk away from changed, provoked, angry yet inspired by its writer and its people.
That was the gorgeous simplicity of Gamel - who was fighting who or the reasons why, werenít important compared to the people she knew and her love of Spain. Her fears were more for what was being lost and fear for the people she knew than for her own life. It seems that caring for others gave her some fulfillment that she hadnít found either before or after.
A great book, although I canít help feeling it was a sad life that wrote it.
Deathís Other Kingdom has also been re-released under the title Malagaís Burning in the U.S
Michael Jacobs of Factory of Light fame writes a touching Afterword that I'd recommend be read first for a little more insight into Gamel.
Death's Other Kingdom (Virago Travellers)