London, When Nancy Johnstone and her

husband Archie set off for the Costa Brava in 1934 they dreamed, like

so many Britons have since, of a new, tranquil life on the shores of the

Mediterranean, but within two years the Spanish civil war put an end to

what they called their blue paradise.

Now their books, which can be placed alongside George Orwell’s

Homage to Catalonia in their depiction of the war that ripped the

country apart in the 1930s, are to be made into an English-language

film by the award-winning Catalan producer Isona Passola, whose Pa

Negra (Black Bread) won best picture at the 2010 San Sebastian


Nancy, then in her late 20s, had convinced Archie to quit his job

as a subeditor on the News Chronicle and go with her to Tossa de Mar,

where they planned to build a hotel. They chose Tossa, now a popular

resort, because Archie said no one he knew had ever been there


When they arrived, they found a thriving artistic community,

many of whom had fled Nazi Germany. Among them was the architect

Fritz Marcus, who designed the hotel that became Casa Johnstone.

Other new residents included the artists Marc Chagall, Oskar Zugel

and Dora Maar.

Using their Fleet Street links, the hotel soon became popular

among London journalists, writers and artists. Nancy learned Catalan

and the couple settled into the local community.

Then, war broke out and one day in 1936 a Royal Navy destroyer

appeared in the bay to rescue British residents. Nancy and Archie

refused to go, saying they would not abandon the people of Tossa.

We had nothing against people defending themselves from a fascist

coup, Nancy wrote in Hotel in Spain (1937), her perceptive and often

witty account of their early years in Tossa.

That book was followed two years later by Hotel in Flight, both

published by Faber, but long out of print and forgotten, until they were

discovered by Miquel Berga, a professor of humanities at the

Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and a leading Orwell scholar,

who translated the books into Catalan.

Production is due to start soon on the film adaptation of the

books, says Passola, whose company Massa d’Or will make the film �

in English � with Scottish and German partners, the British Guardian

newspaper reported.

Source: Oman News Agency