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Chaves Nogales, a Republican's trip to the Soviets

The journalist went around Europe by plane in 1928, and tells it in a newly reissued book

Junkers, the plane in which Chaves Nogales went around Europe © Alamy

Manuel Chaves Nogales affirmed that Journalism was not a scientific technique, and that, therefore, his trade was limited to "walking and counting." With that vision toured Europe in 1928. His chronicles, gathered in Around Europe by plane - a small bourgeois in red Russia (Books of the Asteroid) -, make up an ode to air travel.

The commercial lines had started after the First World War. Passenger volume was still low. A score of passengers accommodated in enea or leather chairs Under the fuselage The German company Junkers led the technical advances in the sector. The G24 model had bunk beds For resting. Security measures were scarce and the emergency landings They were habitual.

The flight was adventure. Therefore, the 16,000-kilometer journey on which Chaves Nogales embarked was a pioneer. The Sevillian journalist had won the Mariano de Cavia award by The arrival of Ruth Elder to Madrid, a report on the first woman who had crossed the Atlantic alone in a junker. His air journey put him on the front line for what he did best: walk and count.

The Junkers had bunk beds © Alamy

Between Barcelona and Paris suffers a first emergency landing. The engine growls, it smells like burnt rubber; the plane lands between the vines, in the south of France. He has the peace of mind of those who watch the car in which he is traveling stop. No alarm

In the chronicle of his itinerary, the look of Chaves Nogales filters the topics. He says of Paris that is the only city that is definitely finished; the rest are camps or reliquaries, such as Venice or Bruges.

He left Getafe on a flight of the Deutsche Luft Hansa. He had never flown, and his first reflections, published in the Herald of MadridThey reflect astonishment. Chaves gives the name "aviator mode" to the daily meaning of the flight, and wonders how this state affects the passenger's perception.

The journalist believes that when thousands of people travel, there will be another concept of things. The unfeasible world will be compressed to a human measure, and Cities will cease to be built from a terrestrial perspective to adapt to aerial, vertical vision.

The Luna Park pool © Wikipedia: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-P015302

Cinematographers, music bands, orchestras, plastic arts exhibitions, industrial demonstrations and the cult of sports, merge with drunken popes and families traveling with samovar. The journalist strongly criticizes the consequences of the war, but It highlights achievements in civil rights such as women's equality, abortion and divorce.

On his trip to the Caucasus he recognizes a modesty of "immediate inheritance". He states that the difference in the concept of life that the bourgeois have, with which he identifies, and the communist, is that one believes that there is a part of humanity that is a sin to exhibit, and the other considers that everything human must show without hypocrisy.

His attitude is individualistic. He despises the uniformity of the anthill. Switzerland produces rejection. From an Andalusian maritime perspective, he states that A lake is a perfectly stupid thing. The Montblanc seems to me a much worse meringue than the confectioners do and I wish the Swiss would get drunk one day.

In Berlin he admits his provincial vision. Believes that a Latino could not understand Germanic indifference to the erotic. In the pool at Luna Park, women bathed in swimsuits with men with naked torso. The transvestism and normality with which it was performed in homosexual premises Both sexes surprised him.

Upon arriving in Russia, this vision dissolves progressively. If the first chronicles in Moscow speak of the incongruity of modern architecture and, again, of the tendency of the Russian people to undress in bathrooms and parks, Revolutionary achievements gain weight as your stay progresses.

Chaves Nogales © Courtesy of Pilar Chaves / Asteroid Books

His reporter spirit turns in his interview with Ramón Casanellas, the Catalan refugee in Moscow who attempted against Eduardo Dato. His account of the revolutionary struggle advances another testimony that, years later, Chaves Nogales will become His best novel.

In The teacher Juan Martínez who was there, the journalist recounts the odyssey of the flamenco dancer and his wife, Sole, when they are caught in Kiev during the outbreak of the revolution. Like in Around Europe by plane, in this novel Chaves Nogales contrasts the enthusiasm and effort of the communists to achieve an egalitarian society, and the drama of war.

His position, which anticipates what the New Journalism, did not make his role easy. In Spain, despite his defense of Azana in the newspaper NowHe did not hesitate to highlight the abuses of both sides during the war and, therefore, after the exile that led him to Paris and London, his work was in no man's land. We owe the Asteroid Books the reissue of an essential author

Chaves Nogales © Books of the Asteroid

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