Anarchist Odyssey, or the Christie File expanded [Review]

Stuart Christie, The Christie File volume 2, General Franco made me a 'terrorist'

To say Stuart Christie has had an interesting life would be an understatement. This is his (updated) account of how he came to be smuggling the explosives into Spain that were to be used to kill Franco. His arrest by the feared Brigado Politico-Social and conviction by military tribunal focused the eyes of the world on Europe's last fascist dictatorship and the resistance to it. His sense of humour helps ease the tension - wearing a baggy jumper to hide the explosives he 'looked like Quasimodo's and Esmerelda's lovechild' - but he isn't blind to the 'What if?'s that could have ended his story then and there.

The brutality of state power is brought home in his account of an execution; 'A hellish tympani broke the silence of the dawn. We were the inmates of Bedlam performing O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, without music.' Prison also means boredom, but the only glimpse we get of this is when he reads a three volume history of 'Civilisation in England' in a weekend. Rather like Bekman's classic Prison memoirs of an Anarchist this is an odyssey, not so much through the prison system as his growth, partly political but also personal as he reacts with his fellow prisoners: 'some with clearly outstanding abilities and highly specialised knowledge coupled with defective morality'

Besides his own story Christie recounts those of other anarchist militants he met: Miguel Garcia, Goliardo Fiaschi, Juan Busquets Verges, filling out the story of the Spanish resistance and his 'obligation of remembrance' with personal details. In his chronology and appendices (including French and Spanish secret police reports) the context of the Spanish resistance (that could hardly be given in the first edition) is set out. But prisons and prisoners are affected by the outside world, and even from his cell he can observe the stirrings that were to make the sixties a period of revolutionary ferment. His informed discussion of politics (left and right) in the sixties also provides a great deal of food for thought.

This is a funny and very human book, and a very thoughtful one. It will be an important source for students of modern anarchism, but it's also an account 'from the inside' that makes you stop and think.