Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Gerona. Town tucked away in the northeast corner of Catalonia near Spain’s border with France. Gerona might at first seem an unlikely place to carry the symbolic weight of all the forces sweeping through Spain during the tumultuous years of the young republic. Barcelona, also in Catalonia, about sixty miles southwest of Gerona, is a larger city that played a more important role in the Spanish Civil War than Gerona; however, José María Gironella was born in Gerona and, following the traditional advice given to young writers, wrote about what he knew intimately. For him, Gerona stands for all places in Spain, and each locale in this city has a symbolic meaning.

Alvear apartment

Alvear apartment. Gerona home of the Alvears, a typical Spanish family living on the second floor of a flat overhanging the Onar River. Because of the river’s seasonal floods, the neighborhood is seen as unattractive, though the Alvear residence is better than the flats the family occupied earlier in Madrid, before Matías Alvear, a Republican, was transferred to Gerona to work as a clerk in the telegraph office. Because Alvear is from Madrid and his wife, Carmen Elgazu, is from the Basque provinces, events occurring in the rest of Spain influence family members. For example, one month after the Republic is proclaimed, Matías’s brother, a radical, participates in the burning of churches and convents in Madrid.


Seminary. Religious institution...

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The Cypresses Believe in God Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ilie, Paul. “Fictive History in Gironella.” Journal of Spanish Studies: Twentieth Century 2 (1974): 77-94. Shows that Gironella points out relationships between the novel and historical events of the time. Citations from the novels are all in the original Spanish.

Preston, Paul. Revolution and War in Spain, 1931-1939. New York: Methuen, 1984. This set of twelve essays shows that the Spanish Civil War was not one but many wars. Most pertinent to the background of The Cypresses Believe in God are the essay by Frances Lannon on the responsibilities of the anticlericals and the Catholic church in polarizing Spanish society in the 1930’s and the chapter by Juan Pablo Pusi on the conflicts between the micronationalism of Catalonia and the Second Republic.

Schwartz, Ronald. José María Gironella. Boston: Twayne, 1972. Covers the author’s career to 1968. The chapter on The Cypresses Believe in God contains several errors, such as identification of David, Olga, and El Responsable as Communists, and thus should be used with caution.

Thomas, Gareth. The Novel of the Spanish Civil War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Gironella’s trilogy receives a chapter, and the introductory chapters are valuable in providing a context. The citations from Gironella and his critics are all in the original Spanish or French.