"IF YOU EVER GET PROBLEMS WRITING THINK OF POOR OLD PAPA" (HEMINGWAY): FIRST EDITION OF LINCOLN BATTALION, 1939, EDWIN ROLFE'S EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
ROLFE, Edwin. The Lincoln Battalion. The Story of the Americans Who Fought in Spain in the International Brigades. New York: Random House, (1939). Octavo, original tan cloth, cartographic endpapers, original dust jacket. $700.
First edition of Rolfe's seminal work on American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, featuring on-the-ground coverage of the front and his emerging lifelong friendship with Hemingway—"this huge, bull-shouldered man with the questioning eyes and the full-hearted interest in everything that Spain was fighting for"—with 16 pages of illustrations including full-page image of Hemingway, and six maps, in original dust jacket.
Rolfe, hailed as the "poet laureate of the American volunteers," is best known for this history of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, published three years after the first American volunteers landed in Spain to defend its elected government against Franco. With the U.S. committed to a noninterventionist policy despite Franco's alignment with Hitler and Mussolini, Rolfe fought and worked as a journalist alongside Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn and Langston Hughes, as well as photographer Robert Capa. "Cited and often quoted extensively in all subsequent books about Americans who fought in Spain," this is the first on-the-ground work by a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, whose battles "set the tone for the whole subsequent struggle between democracy and fascism" (Nelson & Hendricks, Collected Poems, xiii, 2).
Rolfe writes that Hemingway, a close friend, was the man "best loved by the Lincoln boys… the presence of this huge, bull-shouldered man with the questioning eyes and the full-hearted interest in everything that Spain was fighting for instilled in the tired Americans some of his own strength." When Americans hospitalized in Madrid "returned to health, they went in and out of Hemingway's rooms at the Hotel Florida, talking, using his always-flowing bathtub and his bottomless flask, trying not to disturb him in the hours when he wrote." In a letter to Rolfe, Hemingway once wrote: "If you ever get problems writing think of poor old papa who thinks in Indian, translates into Spanish, writes in English and it is about Italy" (Nelson & Henricks, Edwin Rolfe: Biographical Essay, 92). About one-third of the Americans who died in Spain were buried there, but Rolfe and others who returned became "marked men… amid the anti-Communist hysteria of the 1940s and 50s." He was named a Communist "during the 1951 hearings in Hollywood. The following year he received a subpoena to appear before HUAC" (Carroll, Odyssey, viii, 329), and died in 1954. First edition: "First Printing" on the copyright page. With 16 black-and-white photographic illustrations, including those by Robert Capa; cartographic endpapers and six full-page maps.
Book fine; mild edge-wear to scarce near-fine dust jacket.