Hope, resignation, despair, sadness, humour, confusion, ruthlessness, compassion, kindness, generosity and love inhabit Pete Ayrton's anthology of writings from the Spanish Civil War: there is little sense of certainty and still less of triumphalism among the bewilderingly diverse Republican and Nationalist coalitions, all shades of which are represented here. Previous collections privileged the writings of the International Brigades over those of the Spanish, sometimes excluding them altogether. !No Pasaran! corrects the balance: by far the largest contingent of its thirty-five writers are Spanish, including Luis Bunuel, Manuel Rivas, Javier Cercas, Arturo Barea, Joan Sales and Chaves Nogales. The remainder offer contrasting perspectives of participants in the conflict from America (among them John Dos Passos, Muriel Rukeyser and Langston Hughes); Italy (Curzio Malaparte and Leonardo Sciascia); France (Jean-Paul Sartre, Andre Malraux and others); Germany (Gustav Regler); Russia (Victor Serge); Great Britain (including Arthur Koestler, George Orwell and Laurie Lee); Cuba, Argentina and Mexico. Pete Ayrton brings together hauntingly vivid stories from a bitterly fought war. This is powerful writing that allows the reader to witness life behind and at the front lines of both sides.
Pete Ayrton was born in London in 1943. After studying and briefly teaching philosophy, a period of left-wing tourism in France and Italy led to his learning to read and converse in these languages, and to take part in the intense, opaque discourses of Marxism. A period of work as translator led to a job as editor with Pluto Press and to his founding in 1986 of Serpent's Tail with the specific remit of publishing fiction in translation; this includes two First World War classics Frederic Manning's Her Privates We and Gabriel Chevallier's Fear, both represented in No Man's Land.