The fictionalized stories about The Spanish Earth are piling up. Another novel about Ivens’ documentary on the Spanish Civil War was published by British author James Kellen: ´Hemingway´s Spanish Earth´. The storyline follows the days of shooting and editing, from 27 February 1937 until 8 July 1937.

Germans secret service
On 27 February American novelist Ernest Hemingway met Joris Ivens for the very first time at the Café ‘les Deux Magots’ in Paris, where they agreed to collaborate in covering this prelude to the Second World War in film and articles  supporting a campaign raising money for ambulances. The novel ends on 8 July when Hemingway, Gellhorn and Ivens gathered at the White House for a first presentation of the film to president F. D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor.
The novel ‘Hemingway’s Spanish Earth’ is well written and not a repetition of other books on the same subject. Kellen is introducing a new aspect lacking in previous texts on The Spanish Earth: the influence of the German secret service. Kellen found out that admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of ‘Abwehr’ (the Nazi-army intelligence), made at least three trips to Spain in 1937, in order to support general Franco by counterespionage actions. Canaris, who spoke Spanish fluently, had succeeded in getting Nazi-Germany and Fascist-Italy involved in direct and large scale military support for the rebels of Franco. The admirals’ next and primary aim was to discredit the Russian high command in Spain by spreading false documents. Kellen makes it plausible that due to the German secret service, film stock, car’s and other material of Ivens’ film crew had been sabotaged, although there is no proof of it. Kellen: ‘There is no evidence for deliberate sabotage during the making of The Spanish Earth but it is true that the team had mechanical problems with both cars and cameras on several occasions.’ Using outdated equipment is another option for the repetitive failure of these materials, but up to now the existing influence of German counterespionage has been neglected. In an ‘Author’s Note’ Kellen explains that this novel is a work of fiction. ‘It uses real characters and real situations, but I have treated them as a novelist, not as a historian. Almost all the people named in this text existed and were in Spain at the times described’. Despite the accuracy of most historical details, the convincing dialogues and the nice tempo of the narrative Kellen’s book is hampered by an amount of incredible (typing) errors. Is it Hemingway or Hemmingway, Kock of Koch?

A labyrinth of fact & fiction
The political labyrinth of the Spanish Civil War caused in its aftermath and until today an enormous number of publications, representing a similar labyrinth of as many opposing points of views as at the time. The case of the famous photo, made by Robert Capa and entitled The Fallen Soldier, shows how long and deep a dispute can be about whether a work of art about this war was fake or fact.
From the very beginning Ivens’ film in 1937 attracted the attention of authors writing various reports and novels based on this subject. Of course Hemingway himself was the first to publish his well-known ‘Dispatches’ for American newspapers and magazines with quite reliable accounts of what he saw, experienced and thought on the spot. A number of these ‘Dispatches’ present details of the shooting of the film, in which Hemingway played an active role. Also John Dos Passos wrote a number of texts about his contribution to the film. His first account was limited to ‘The Irrigation Project’, also entitled ‘Socialist Reconstruction’ (in the book ‘Journey between Wars’, 1938). It is about the agricultural revolution in Fuentedueña, a village on the hills near the Tajo river, which Ivens found and needed to relate the military defence of Madrid with the social revolution on the countryside. In this short text of Dos Passos there is no mention of the film, but it provides a nice background and context to the sequences shot in the village of Fuentedueña, where Ivens, Ferno and Dos Passos filmed. In the larger novels both Hemingway and Dos Passos wrote shortly after their visit to Spain, ‘For Whom the Bells Toll’ and ‘Adventures of a Young Man’, the film doesn’t play any role. Thirty years later however Dos Passos, in the meanwhile switched from the left side of the political spectre to right side, wrote new texts with his memories of the film project. His fictionalized ‘Chronicles’ (in ‘Century’s Ebb: The Thirteen’s Chronicle’, 1975) are lacking accuracy and the chronological order is as mistaken as the texts of Ivens himself about The Spanish Earth in his two autobiographies ‘The Camera and I’ (1966) and ‘Joris Ivens ou la mémoire d’un regard’ (1983).
In 1999 art historian John Steen wrote a kind of diary of the shooting of Ivens´ film, so that at least  the chronological order was finally reconstructed in a reliable way.
American author Stephen Koch based his novel ‘The Breaking Point’ (2005) mainly on Dos Passos’s memories presenting serious prejudices. This novel tries to reconstruct in a fictionalized way what happened during the shooting of The Spanish Earth between the two friends Hemingway and Dos Passos, causing the breaking point in their friendship. Koch: ‘I continue to rely on Century’s Ebb’, because according to Koch ‘Dos Passos’s (lightly) fictionalized memory’ is ‘based on the vivid memory of a prime participant […] is surely as close to the nature and tenor of real exchanges as would be a more neutral account’. However Koch’s description of Joris Ivens, John Ferno and Helen van Dongen is far from ´neutral´ and doesn’t hold, because it is full of exciting nonsense, creating a false image of these Dutch being KGB spies, reflecting Koch’s phantasy of prejudices. 
The TV series ‘Hemingway & Gellhorn’ (HBO, 2013) is also centred around the visit of Hemingway, his mistress Martha Gellhorn, Joris Ivens and Robert Capa to Madrid in spring 1937. The script is not based on Dos Passos’s memories, but more on the letters of Gellhorn. Amanda Vaills’s ‘Hotel Florida. Truth, Love & Death in the Spanish Civil War´ (2014) tries to balance the various point of views in the labyrinth. But Paul Preston, renowned specialist, is noticing a Cold War tendency in her description of all the people involved. Also James Kellen is presenting a kind of synthesis of all source material and point of views.
But despite what authors, novelists and others are trying to reconstruct or represent, The Spanish Earth still stands and remains the best primary source.


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