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
Source: Oman News Agency