Tuesday, May 8, 2018

'As much as I loved my king, I love the Legion.'

When is a Foreign Legion story not a Foreign Legion story? Perhaps when the subject isn't the French Foreign Legion but it's Spanish counterpart. The Spanish organization is the subject of Robert Carse's "Legion" (Adventure,  December 1936), set in North Africa in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. Carse has something of a reputation as a leftist, so he might be expected to take the Republican side, but for this story, at least, he takes a neutral position. In short, an officer thought long lost escapes from Moorish captivity and promptly falls under suspicion as a relic of the old regime. The new commander is a Republican loyalist, but he and his predecessor eventually realize that their shared first loyalty is to the Legion. Their second shared loyalty is to Spain's colonial empire. Leftists the Republicans may have been, but that doesn't translate to anti-imperialism, at least in this story. Under Republican rule, the Legion's job remains to maintain Spanish rule in the region, while the old officer's main purpose is to avenge the insult to national pride he endured as a captive and virtual slave. The King of Spain may have oppressed  his own people, the old man concedes, "But before any King of Spain did that, we drove the Moors from there, swept them out and into the sea. I do not know, but I think that in the years the Moors held me as a slave the memory of those things kept me alive." The old hero dies an epic, almost Arthurian death, impaled on a bayonet but driving himself forward to get his old enemy the Moor in a literal death grip. So passes the old regime in honorable style, one might believe, though in fact it would be reborn in less honorable form, but leaving that aside, "Legion" is a typically solid action story from Carse that gains added interest from its historical context.

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