Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation


‘No writer would have decided to tell the story of his life; it would be too much like an adventure novel.’ That is the conclusion Ilya Ehrenburg came to as long ago as 1931 when he made the acquaintance of Buenaventura Durruti; and he set to work on it right away. In a few sentences he wrote down what he thought he knew about Durruti: ‘This metalworker had fought for the revolution from the time he was an adolescent. He had been on barricades, robbed banks, thrown bombs, kidnapped judges. He had been condemned to death three times: in Spain, in Chile and in Argentina. He had seen the inside of countless prisons and been expelled from eight countries.’ And so on. The rejection of the ‘adventure novel’ betrays the storyteller's old fear people might take him for a liar, and that precisely at the point where he stops inventing things and talks about ‘reality’ instead.