On Saturday January 14th, the University Library opened its doors to over 200 alumni and friends. Adam Hochschild, historian and lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism, gave the warmly received presentation at this year’s Luncheon in the Library.
Hochschild shared with his audience images and stories from his bestselling new book, Spain in Our Hearts: Americans and in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. It tells the story of the Spanish Civil War through a dozen characters — including Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell — to portray the idealism and suffering of that cause. There were at least eight Berkeley graduates or former students who fought in Spain, Hochschild said.
A central figure in Spain in Our Hearts is Robert H. Merriman, a graduate student and head teaching fellow in the Department of Economics at Berkeley in the early 1930s. Merriman became one of the highest-ranking Americans in Spain and to some degree is a model for the character of Robert Jordan in Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the war, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Like more than one out of four of his fellow American volunteers, Merriman was killed in Spain.
While a student at Berkeley, he and his wife Marion lived just north of campus, on Virginia Street, off Euclid.
Russ Ellis, Berkeley professor and vice chancellor emeritus, commented that the event was a delight, both to hear about Hochschild’s research and “his account of his thoroughly entangled love affair with the Berkeley Library. Indeed, the Library is the beating heart of the university. It nourishes not only the campus but a wider world of investigators and the public.”
Much of the research for Hochschild’s eight books has been undertaken in the David P. Gardner Stacks. For Spain in Our Hearts he also made use of Marion Merriman’s papers and other letters and documents about the Spanish Civil War in the Bancroft Library. Hochschild affectionately refers to Doe as his favorite library, and adds that “what constantly impresses me is that no matter how obscure is the item I’m looking for, 95% of the time Berkeley has it. I’m the Library’s best customer.”
Hochschild teaches narrative writing at UC Berkeley, and has also taught writing workshops for working journalists in the U.S., Britain, Zambia, South Africa and India. Among other awards, he won a 2005 Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction for the entire body of his work. His wife Arlie R. Hochschild, also renowned for a number of bestselling books, is a professor of sociology at Berkeley.
The Luncheon was a gesture of appreciation from the Library to Bay Area donors, thanking them for their generous support over the years. In the last fiscal year, over six million dollars was raised through private support.
While the Luncheon in the Library is an invitation-only event for donors, Hochschild is also appearing in February 9’s Story Hour in the Library, which is free and open to the public.
A current exhibit at the Bancroft Library focuses on the Spanish Civil War.