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The history of the 20th century through 10 novels and their film adaptations

Onésimo Díaz, professor at Master's Degree in Christianity and Contemporary Culture, publishes "History, Culture and Christianity (1870-2020)".

For students, learning about 20th century history can be a challenge. Too many names, dates, wars and treaties. In order to captivate a classroom of young people born in the 21st century, Onésimo Díaz, professor of Contemporary History, Deputy Director of the Center of programs of study Josemaría Escrivá and professor of Master's Degree in Christianity and Contemporary Culture, has written "History, Culture and Christianity (1870-2020)".

The book covers the most relevant events that have taken place, from the empires of the 19th century and the liberal states of Western Europe, to the September 11 attack in the United States. The chapters are accompanied by a novel that sample how it was that time in history and its film adaptation.

Professor Diaz assures that this financial aid will help students better understand the events and deepen their implications.

Q. Why have you combined literature and film with history? What do you think the former contribute to the learning of the latter?

R. Since I have been teaching at the University, more than 20 years ago, I have tried to bring students closer to history through literature, cinema and good biographies.

I think it is not only a pedagogical tool , but also reflects historical facts very well. At first it is fiction, but often there are passages in a novel or a film that are plausible and reflect historical facts well. We say that a picture is worth a thousand words, because a film or a novel can show the events as a monograph. I think they are very useful tools to learn about history.

Q. What other advantages do novels and films have over historical books or monographs?

R. A monograph tends to be more dense for younger students, who find it increasingly difficult to read and deal with guide . On the other hand, watching a series, a movie or a documentary is more approachable. It seems to me that it is a way to expose students to serious and profound events. Later they will read about it, but a first approach can be through a quality movie, even some cinema classics with good actors, directors and screenwriters.

I also take into account the history of Christianity, because it is present in the world and is gaining importance in the continents less known to Europeans: Africa, Asia and America. It plays a great role in their culture and in historical events. Europeans sometimes find it a little difficult to understand that there are important events that happen outside the old continent.

Q. How did you choose the novels and their films to represent the moments of the 20th century?

R. The book has as its origin a subject that was called "History, Culture and Christianity in the 20th Century". In making the program I selected films and novels that had worked well in other subjects. I realized that there were ten novels that had good film adaptations.

The last chapter is about the end of the 20th century and the third millennium. I have looked for a representative novel and film, but it has been complicated. Maybe because it is the most recent era and we don't know yet if there are novels or movies that will become classics. We will have to wait a while, or maybe some reader who likes movies a lot will discover something to recommend.

Q. What reaction do students have when they see or read what you recommend for subject?

R. I think they have a better understanding of subject, and the story, and that is a great satisfaction for me. I recommend that students do a voluntary work , pick a movie or a book and relate it to the subject we see at class. They find that it has helped them to go deeper and get closer to a historical topic that, from entrance, may be difficult or they don't understand very well.

P. If you had to choose a novel and its tape to define the 20th century, which one would you choose and why?

R. When I have had to choose a film to watch with students, I have almost always chosen between two: "The Third Man" and "Living". The first is a black and white film shot in Vienna after World War II. It reflects very well an area destroyed by the war, you can see the ruins, the rottenness of the streets and the hunger. It is a brilliant film, the script is by Graham Green and it stars Orson Welles. I like to watch it with the students of Communication.

The second, "Living", is perhaps a little more distant for our European sensibility. It is a Chinese film that reflects very well what they have suffered in the twentieth century. Although it is set in China, the protagonist family could very well be located in Greece, Spain or Bolivia, because what happens in that family is universal: the crises of a marriage, the problems with the children, how historical events influence the family, are vital issues.

Q. Why did you choose the 20th century, and are you considering other centuries?

R. For now I don't think about it, maybe when I retire. I have many years with subjects and topics of research of the twentieth century. I like all historical periods, when I was studying I was very interested in ancient or medieval history, but as the years went by I specialized in the last century. I would have liked to study the double Degree of History and Journalism. Students are lucky to be able to combine two fields that have a lot in common. I think it is a very rich training .

For now, the next step is the presentation of the book at Troa on June 21. I will be joined by Sonsoles Echavarren, a journalist from Diario de Navarra, to discuss the themes of the book.