Books

What makes a good holiday read depends entirely much on persona tastes, of course, but here are a few suggestions to get ‘in the mood‘:

Fiction – a few classics:
  • Offside, by Manuel Vazquez Montalbán: ‘To revive its sagging fortunes, Barcelona FC have bought Jack Mortimer, European Footballer of the Year. But no sooner has he taken possession of his company Porsche than death threats start arriving. Are they are hoax, or connnected to the land deals that are tearing Barcelona apart?’
  • No Word from Gurb, by Eduardo Mendoza: ‘A shape-shifting extraterrestrial named Gurb has assumed the form of Madonna and disappeared in Barcelona’s backstreets. His hapless commander, desperately trying to find him, records the daily pleasures, dangers and absurdities of our fragile world, while munching his way through enormous quantities of churros.’
  • The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: ‘Barcelona, 1945—A great world city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called The Shadow of the Wind, by an author named Julian Carax. When the boy searches for Carax’s other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written. Soon the boy realizes that The Shadow of the Wind is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author’s identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret.’
  • Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes: ‘400 years ago the first part of this book was written. Surely much people knows it deals with a fool man of La Mancha, truly a not very wealthy region of central south Spain, not far from Madrid. In a pure literary order of Spanish language and conception, Don Quijote is a the big precedent of modern novel.’
  • Soldiers of Salamis, by Javier Cercas: ‘In this unusual story of the Spanish Civil War, author Cercas experiments with the voice of his main character and with the form of this novel. The speaker, who is obviously Javier Cercas himself, soon begins to expand the scope of his tale, investigating more than the verifiable facts about Sanchez Mazas and musing philosophically about the passage of time, the transcience of youth, the dubious legacy of war, and the nature of heroes.’
Spanish Civil War
  • Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell: ‘This book is truly essential reading for anyone interested in the Spanish Civil War, or for that matter anyone with an interest in war, Communism, Socialism, Anarchism or in Literature. Orwell’s account of the Spanish Civil War is more than just a brilliant account of life in a civil war, it is a first hand account of the horrors of Stalinism, and Orwell’s experiences in Spain explain why he later wrote his best known works, 1984 and Animal Farm, to warn of the dangers which he knew so well.’
  • The Spanish Labyrinth, by Gerald Brenan: ‘This book is widely thought of as the best introduction to the Spanish Civil War around. As well as charting the basic cycles of state ranging from Isabella to Franco, it also offers specific insights to the various factions competing within each area of Spain at any given time. For those who have not grappled with the political complexity of the early 20th century in Spain, this book provides an excellent (and not so superficial) historical insight into Anarchism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, Carlism, and the Falange. It also explains the allegiances of the POUM and PCE during the course of the war, and the equally complex make-up of Franco’s grand coalition.’
  • British Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, by Richard Baxell: ‘During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 almost 2,500 men and women left Britain to fight for the Spanish Republic. This book examines the role, experiences and contribution of the volunteers who fought in the British Battalion of the 15 International Brigades’
  • The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction, by Helen Graham: ‘Amid the catastrophes of the twentieth century, the Spanish Civil War exerts a particular fascination. This title provides a written explanation of the war’s complex origins and course, and explores its impact on a personal and an international scale.’
  • The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-39, by Antony Beevor: ‘The Spanish Civil War is often poorly understood, indeed misunderstood, firstly because of its complexity, secondly because most of us outside Spain know about the war from those who fought on the Republican side and subsequently wrote about it (best known of whom is of course George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia). Antony Beevor cuts through the confusion with a marvellously clear and concise account of the war, not sparing the reader a taste of how horrific conditions were in Spain for combatant and non-combatant alike.’
Contemporary Spain:
  • Homage to Barcelona, by Colm Toibin: ‘This book celebrates one of Europe’s greatest cities – a cosmopolitan hub of vibrant architecture, art, culture and nightlife. It moves from the story of the city’s founding and its huge expansion in the nineteenth century to the lives of Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Casals and Dalí. It also explores the history of Catalan nationalism, the tragedy of the Civil War, the Franco years and the transition from dictatorship to democracy which Colm Tóibín witnessed in the 1970s.’
  • Barcelona, by Robert Hughes: ‘A modern homage to a proud, cosmopolitan city, where geniuses like Picasso and Miro learned how to break the rules. Robert Hughes takes us down the Ramblas through the ‘intestinal windings’ of the ancient gothic quarter, past the bountiful Boqueria market to the Eixample.’
  • The Basque Country: A Cultural History, by Paddy Woodworth: ‘A comprehensive guide to the Basques, setting todays country against a very complex historical past. It treads a careful path to portray as politically neutral observation of a people who (on every side of the equation) take an avid interest in their politics. Quite a feat.’
  • Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country’s History, by Giles Tremlett: ‘The appearance – sixty years after that war ended – of mass graves containing victims of Franco’s death squads finally broke what Spaniards call ‘the pact of forgetting’. This book takes us on a journey around Spain – and through Spanish history.’
  • The New Spaniards, by John Hooper: ‘Spain has become a land of extraordinary paradoxes in which traditional attitudes and contemporary preoccupations exist side by side. Focusing on issues which affect ordinary Spaniards, from housing to gambling, from changing sexual mores to rising crime rates, this study offers a portrayal of Spain of the twenty-first century.’
  • The Arts in Spain, by John F. Moffitt: ‘This text provides an overview of the arts in Spain from prehistory to the present day. Providing examples from different artistic fields, the author traces the development of the arts in Spain from its Christian foundations through to the innovative works of Picasso, Dali and Miro.’

 

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