(Paul Preston’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/18.)

Next week the Southwark Playhouse in London will host what will be only the second production in Britain of Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 play, The Fifth Column (the first, produced by Michael Powell, toured in early 1944). Hemingway wrote the play while in Madrid covering the Spanish civil war for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Although the main fighting was by then in the north, Madrid was still subjected to daily artillery bombardment and aerial bombing. Virtually surrounded by four columns of Francoist troops, the city was plagued by a fifth column of snipers and saboteurs. Although not a great play, it is a fascinating one for what it tells us about Hemingway himself.


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