I've often found it true that one book leads to another, even if they're very different. It's hardly obvious that one of the starting points for this particular project was writing the biography of a painter, Edward Burra, who was born in 1905. Burra was no optimist; he had to cope with crippling pain from arthritis and other chronic health problems, and he had a great sense of the darkness of life. Quite a few of his paintings contain demons, spooks, and indeterminate supernatural figures, mostly up to no good. However, he did love Spain very dearly, and it so happened he was visiting there at the onset of the Spanish Civil War. He found the experience deeply shocking. In a stream of letters sent from Madrid, rapidly followed by a series of very powerful paintings when he got home, he expressed a profound feeling that Spain was possessed by demons. Suddenly, civilised people, his personal friends, were greeting news of atrocities with a shrug, and ‘So?’ Much later, reading about the English Civil War of the seventeenth century, I came across eloquently expressed views of anguished English men and women, Roundhead and Cavalier alike, saying in one way or another, ‘have we all gone mad?’ ‘how has this happened?’ Something clicked in my mind between Burra's demon-haunted Spain, and the idea of a country toppling into chaos. Eventually a plot turned up, and everything went on from there.
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