Tuesday. January 31, 2017. 6:48 PM. 26 degrees. I'm snowed in at Oliver Mannion's college library! He’s working tonight. I drove him in, planning to head over Barnes & Noble and wait there until he shift ends at 8, but the roads were pretty bad when we started out and they've gotten worse. So I'm just hanging out here till he’s done and hoping the plows do their job and the snow tapers off or we're stuck. The good news is the library has a snack bar that's open till 9 and they serve good coffee.
I hope you won't need to burn books for warmth!
I assured her things are fairly toasty here at the moment and the books are safe for now. But her bibliophile’s concern for my welfare and/or the library’s collection reminded me of an interesting fact I picked up the other day from Adam Hochschild’s new book about some Americans and volunteers from other countries who fought on the side of the Republicans against Franco’s Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, Spain in Our Hearts, that I've got to share. During Franco’s siege of Madrid, Republican and Nationalist troops fought it out on the University of Madrid campus.
Each of its red-brick dormitories and majestic Bauhaus classroom buildings, spread across a hillside, became separate fortresses. At one point the Republicans held the medical school; the Nationalists, the Institute of Agronomy. Buildings, sometimes single floors, changed hands over weeks of fighting. British volunteers [with the Republican International Brigade] found themselves quartered amid the marble corridors, ornate doors, and paneled lecture rooms of the Philosophy and Letters building until dispatched to fight nearby. Franco’s troops took the building; French volunteers recaptured it with a bayonet charge.
When they returned to the Philosophy and Letters building, the British volunteers stacked up books for breastworks. They figured out that a bullet would penetrate up to 350 pages so they used the thickest books they could find. German philosophers worked best, an irony, considering Hitler's support of Franco.
Update. 7:30. Still warm. Books unlit. Condition of the roads unknown. Coffee’s still good. Very friendly counter guy in the cafe. Gave me my second cup for free. “It’s on me!” he said.
Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild is available in hardcover and for kindle at Amazon.