This is Ernest Hemingway. The Fifth Column was written in the fall and early winter of 1937 while we were expecting an offensive. Se trata de Ernest Hemingway. La quinta columna fue escrita en el otoño y principios del invierno de 1937, mientras que esperábamos una ofensiva. There were three major offensive projects with the Army of the center that year. Había tres grandes proyectos ofensivos con el ejército del centro de ese año. One of them was Brunetti. Uno de ellos era Brunetti. It had been fought. Se había luchado. It started brilliantly and ended in a very bloody and undecisive battle. Se comenzó brillantemente y terminó en una batalla muy sangrienta e indeciso. And we were waiting for the first of the other two. Y estábamos esperando para el primero de los otros dos. They never came and while we waited I wrote the play. Que nunca llegó y mientras esperábamos que escribió la obra.
Each day we were shelled by the Guns beyond Leganes And behind the folds of Goddard’s Hill. And while I was writing the play, the Hotel Florida where we lived and worked was struck by more than thirty high-explosive shells. So, if it is not a good play perhaps that is what is the matter with it. If it is a good play, perhaps those thirty-some shells helped write it.
When you went to the front, at its closest it was fifteen-hundred yards from the hotel. The play was always slipped inside the inner hold of a rolled-up mattress. When you came back and found the room and the play intact you were always pleased. It was finished and copied and sent out of the country just before the taking of Perawell.
The title refers to the Spanish statement in the fall of 1936 that they had four columns advancing on Madrid and a Fifth Column of sympathizers inside the city to attack the defenders of the city from the rear. If many of the Fifth Column are now dead , it must be realized that they were killed in a warfare where they were as dangerous and as determined as any of those who died in the other four columns. Four Columns advancing on Madrid shot their prisoners. When members of the Fifth Column were captured inside the city in the early days of the war, they were also shot. Later, they were to be tried and given prison or labor-camp sentences or sentenced to execution depending upon the crimes they had committed against the Republic. But in the early days they were shot. They deserved to be under the the rules of war and they expected to be. Some fanatical defenders of the Spanish Republic..and fanatics do not make good friends for a cause..would criticize the play because it admits that Fifth Column members were shot. They will also say and have said that it does not present the nobility and the dignity of the cause of the Spanish people. It does not attempt to. It will take many plays and novels to do that And the best ones will be written after the war is over
This is only a play about counter-espionage in Madrid. It has the defects of having been written in wartime and if it has a moral it is that people who work for certain organizations have very little time for home life. There is a girl in it named Dorothy but her name might also have been Nostalgia. Perhaps, it would be best now for you to see it and for me to stop talking about it. But it being written under fire makes for defects It may also give a certain vitality. You who see it will have a better perspective on this than I have. About the stories, there is not much to say.
The first four, the last ones I have written ..The others follow in the order in which they were originally published. The first one I wrote was up in Michigan. Written in Paris in 1921. The last was “Old Man At the Bridge” cabled from Barcelona in April of 1938. Beside “The Fifth Column” I wrote “The Killers” , “Today is Friday” “Pan Indians” part of “The Sun Also Rises” and the first third of “ To Have and Have Not” in Madrid. It was always a good place for working so was Paris and so were Key West, Florida in the cool months, the ranch near Cook City, Montana; Kansas City; Chicago; Toronto and Havana, Cuba. Some other places were not so good but maybe we were not so good when we were in them.