Thursday, 28 May 2015

Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett

 
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 On 10 April 2006, Clive P L Young wrote a review on Amazon...

"An indispensable introduction to the complex politics and fast-shifting culture of Spain over the last thirty years, Ghosts of Spain presents an engaging and highly readable account of the country's remarkable transition from stagnant authoritarianism to vigorous democracy. 
The opening chapters on the partly hidden legacy of the Civil War and Francoism are quite outstanding as Tremlett gives reasons for Spain's extraordinary lack of either reconciliation or recrimination. 
Recent scandals and the often-related construction and tourist booms are smartly handled and the detour to the heart of flamenco is genuinely moving. 
The author is much less sure-footed on the chapters on Basque and Catalan nationalism, revealing an unfortunate and disappointingly clichéd Madrid metropolitan bias. Although the book also suffers from what seems to have been hasty editing, the recompense is Tremlett's a fine journalistic sensitivity for place and people and a genuine love for his subject."

Robert Bovington wrote...

"I have also read Giles Tremlett's 'Ghosts of Spain' and can reiterate Mr Young's sentiments". "The book is a good account of recent Spanish history and captures the essence of Spain instead of the "rose-tinted spectacles" view of the popular 'Costas'."


other blogs by Robert Bovington:
"Photographs of Spain"
"Spanish Impressions"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Spanish Matters

by Robert Bovington

Bob and Diane have made the life-changing decision to retire to sunny Andalucía. Instead of lazing on the beach they explore the countryside of their adopted country. They visit 'pueblos blancos' in the Alpujarras. They enjoy the wonderful scenery of Andalusia.

On one such journey to the medieval city of Ronda they discover the spectacular Sierra de las Nieves - a biosphere reserve. This type of encounter is to be repeated throughout their expeditions. 

Ronda © Robert Bovington
 They experience the stark beauty of the Tavernas desert; the enchanting Palmeral of Elche; the grandeur of the Sierra Nevada and the fantastically diverse landscapes of the Cabo de Gata with its unique flora and fauna.


On their journeys they explore the culture and customs of the Andalucian people - tapas, fiestas, music, soccer, bad driving, noisy Spaniards. 

In short, Bob and Diane have fallen in love with their newly adopted country and are looking forward to visiting other areas of Spain and learning the language properly because Spanish matters!

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/spanisimpres-21/detail/1445207737
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Sunday, 24 May 2015

Federico García Lorca


by Robert Bovington

 


"A poet never gets shot" - Federico García Lorca

Federico García Lorca was born in the village of Fuente Vaqueros, Granada in 1898. He is considered by many people to be the greatest Spanish poet and playwright of the 20th century - well, in Spain and particularly Andalucía he is highly regarded anyway! 

I personally was not aware of the poet and his works until I accompanied a Spanish friend on a visit to the Natural Park of the Cabo de Gata in the province of Almería. Not far from the village of Rodaquilar, there is an old farm building called "Cortijo del Fraile". It was here that a chilling real life murder took place - an event on which Lorca based his play 'Blood Wedding'.



´Cortijo del Fraile' nr Rodaquilar
























This is one of his best-known works along with 'Gypsy Songs', 'Poet in New York', 'Yerma' and 'The House of Bernarda Alba'. 

In nearby Granada, Lorca is revered. This was not always the case - or at least not openly because his books were prohibited and mention of his name forbidden during the Franco years. He had antagonised the Catholic Church, the Monarchy, the Military and landowners with his writings where he had focussed on social injustice and human suffering. He had particularly condemned the Catholic Reconquest of Arab Granada. In his view a great civilisation was lost and poetry, architecture, astronomy and delicacy replaced by the poor, narrow-mindedness of the new city inhabitants. In some ways I have to agree. Whenever I gaze upon the sheer splendour of places like the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Córdoba or even the irrigation systems in the Alpujarras, I wonder what has gone wrong with the Muslim people. Nowadays, they only seem fit for running corner shops or planting bombs! 

Anyway, because of his views, Lorca was a prime target for the Franco death squads. The fact that he was also a homosexual probably didn't help either! So he was killed. In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Fascist soldiers shot him! 

Over seventy years later, his home city of Granada has started to honour him. Granada's airport is called 'Aeropuerto Federico García Lorca'; postcards of the poet and his drawings are displayed alongside those of the Alhambra in the city's shops and kiosks and the tourist industry has jumped on the bandwagon by offering 'Lorca route' itineraries. Visits can be made to a number of sites in the area related to Lorca's life including Víznar near Granada, the site of his murder. 

It was a short life but a fruitful one. His works are a testimony to his literary prowess even if his gravestone isn't - he was buried in an unmarked grave!

Robert Bovington

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Gerald Brenan

Gerald Brenan was an English writer who spent much of his life in Spain and who has written a number of books about the country and its people.

He was actually born in Malta - in 1894 but was educated in England and later served in the British Army in the First World War where he won medals for bravery.

After the war he lived in Spain for a while in the small village of Yegen, in the Alpujarras. He married an American poetess and lived for a time in a house near Málaga but returned to England during the Spanish Civil War.

During the Second World War he was an Air Raid Warden and a Home Guard. Afterwards he returned to Spain where he lived for the remainder of his life. He died at Alhaurín el Grande, Málaga in 1987.

He wrote several books about Spain including 'The Spanish Labyrinth (1943)' and 'The Face of Spain (1951)' but his best-known work is 'South From Granada (1957)' which is generally regarded as being one of the best travel books about Spain.

Gerald Brenan was awarded a CBE in 1982, and was much honoured in Spain.

 
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more blogs by Robert Bovington...

"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"


A Long Hard Slog - a review of Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps – Travels With My Donkey by Tim Moore
A Review by Robert Bovington


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I found this book annoying, often tedious, occasionally interesting and very occasionally funny. So why did I find the book annoying?

Well to start with, various critics have described the author as humorous – inside the book cover, ‘Image’ described Tim as “Without a doubt, the funniest travel writer in the world”; the ‘Irish Times’ even hailed him as the new Bill Bryson. What rubbish! 

I find Bill Bryson so interesting and amusing that I have read all his travel books two or three times and even his other, more serious, works like “Mother Tongue” and “Shakespeare” are funnier and better written than Tim Moore’s book about his long expedition with a donkey. 

Like his journey, I found the book a long hard slog. I found his writing style extremely verbose, sometimes undecipherable and often plain irritating – okay, the word ‘click’ may be military slang for a kilometre but I found the copious use of the word irksome.

I found his humour often grated – too many puns and too adolescent. I certainly didn’t ‘laugh out loud’ but, to be fair, I did chuckle to myself on a couple of occasions. I didn’t mind, either, some of his ‘toilet’ humour, though there were too many references to donkey poo for my liking.

So what were the good points? Well, Tim Moore follows the travel writer’s ‘well worn path’ by describing many of the places he visits and supplementing this with quite a bit of history. He does this quite well. He also manages to get across to the reader the sheer scale of the journey – the good bits and the bad. 

Blistered, sometimes sun-scorched, occasionally rain-soaked, the author does a credible job of describing his 750-kilometre trek across northern Spain accompanied by a donkey. I can applaud Tim Moore for completing the ‘Compostela de Santiago’ even if his ulterior motive was to provide material for a book. However, in my view, it is nowhere near the best travel book I have read. He may have walked the path of St. James but he is not yet fit to be mentioned in the same company as Washington Irving, Gerald Brenan, Ernest Hemingway or Chris Stewart – nor Bill Bryson. 

other blogs by Robert Bovington: 

"Photographs of Spain"
"Spanish Impressions"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada - book review by Robert Bovington

"Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada" by Washington Irving 

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Half a century ago, in my school history lessons, I received a very blinkered history of Spain. It consisted almost entirely of the Spanish Armada, Christopher Columbus’ Discovery of America, the Inquisition, the Battle of Trafalgar, Catherine of Aragon and something about Francis Drake singeing the King of Spain’s beard at Cádiz. So, most of it was around the time of Ferdinand and Isabella and, yet, we children learned nothing of the Moors occupation of Spain, let alone the conquest of Granada. 

Over the years, I have read a number of history books and all appeared to give a one-sided view of the ‘Reconquista’. 

Washington Irving’s "Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada” is a welcome departure from the norm. Not only, in my opinion, is the book a jolly good read, but it appears to be a comprehensive history of the series of events and military campaigns that led to the expulsion of the Moors after 700 years on the Iberian Peninsula. 

Washington Irving was something of a hispanophile and yet this book provides the reader with a somewhat balanced account of events. At times, he shows sympathy for the Moors – so much so, that he calls attention to the barbarity of the Christians and the prejudices and ignorance of the Spanish Court. He does this in the guise of “Fray Antonio Agapida”, a fictitious character who represents the monkish zealots of the period. 

This is no work of fiction, however, though it reads like one. Irving carried out much research during his time in Granada and Seville including visiting the towns and villages that formed the backdrop for the events of this delightful book. 

Robert Bovington 

May 2015

other blogs by Robert Bovington: 

"Photographs of Spain"
"Spanish Impressions"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Don Quixote - book review by Robert Bovington

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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Given that this book was written 500 years ago it is surprisingly readable. In fact, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and often comical read. Maybe it is Edith Grossman's translation that has made it accessible to a reader who prefers Bill Bryson, Peter James and Dick Francis to great classical authors like Shakespeare and Dickens. However, untranslated, it must be a pretty good novel anyway because in many surveys it is considered one of the best books of all time. 

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/... 

Cervantes great novel tells the story of an impoverished country gentleman who, having read too many stories about chivalry, decides to become a knight errant. He sets out on a series of adventures - or possibly misadventures - in a quest to put the world to rights. The escapades of the absurd Don Quixote and his companion, Sancho Panza, are set in the La Mancha region of Spain. 

Even if you only read one of the great classics of literature, I would urge you to read "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes and this edition would be recommended for English readers. 

A cheap "Wordsworth Classic" version:-

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other blogs by Robert Bovington:

"Photographs of Spain"
"Spanish Impressions"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Glories of Spain by Charles W. Wood

A book review by Robert Bovington

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 “Glories of Spain” was published in 1901 and describes the travels and adventures of Charles W. Wood and his friends, on a trip to Spain. Despite the book title, the party only visited the east of the country. Nevertheless it is a thoroughly enjoyable read. 

Charles W. Wood thoroughly describes the places he visits – Gerona, Barcelona, Montserrat, Manresa, Lerida, Zaragoza, Tarragona, Poblet, Tortosa and Valencia but, more than that he provides the reader with a thoroughly entertaining dialogue of the people he meets and their stories. And what an interesting bunch!

They included former sweethearts Sister Rosalie and Father Anselmo who sacrificed their love for each other for a life in the Church and the hopeful reward of life together in Heaven; Ernesto and his mother; Salvador the Monk who preferred to live in a cave than the monastery at Montserrat and Monseigneur Delormais and his world-wide travels. Then there was the downtrodden night porter and his wife Rose aka the Dragon; Quasimodo and his beautiful music; blind Nerissa and her husband Alphonse; Loretta & her donkeys and more. 

The author enthuses over many of the monuments he visits and provides the reader with detailed histories of some of the places.

Surprisingly, Charles W. Wood is not well known. Very little information was to be found about him when I researched using the Internet. His mother, however, was a famous author – Mrs Henry Wood wrote over thirty novels, the most famous being East Lynn. 

Charles W. Wood did write other travel books including “Letters from Majorca” and "In the Valley of the Rhone. He should not be confused with another author of the same name – an American who wrote “The Passing of Normalcy”. 

In summary, “Glories of Spain” is a delightful travelogue written by an Englishman in the late 1890s. 

Robert Bovington May 2015

Other versions available...

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other blogs by Robert Bovington:
"Photographs of Spain"
"Spanish Impressions"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Friday, 22 May 2015

History of the Moors of Spain - book review

“History of the Moors of Spain” by M Florian
   a review by Robert Bovington


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 I have read a number of books relating to the Moors’ occupation of Spain including Washington Irving’s excellent “Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada” and “Tales of the Alhambra. “History of the Moors of Spain” by M.Florian is an even more comprehensive account, at times too much so. It sometimes reads like the Book of Genesis with its frequent mention of who beget whom. 

Despite the occasional tedium, the book is a well-constructed history. It also contains a great deal that I find interesting, particularly the description of the Alhambra and Generalife. 

The book has four main sections corresponding to four distinct epochs. The first covers the period 711-750, starting from when Tariq-Ibn-Zeyad and his army crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, which marked the beginning of the Muslim domination in Spain. This period ends with the Umayyad Caliphs of Damascus being relocated in Córdoba. 

This first section of the book also includes events in Asia and Africa during the 6th & 7th centuries that led to the spread of Islamism prior to the occupation of Iberia. 

The second section of the book includes the reigns of the Caliphs in the west: the third relates to the various small Taifa kingdoms erected from the ruins of the Caliphate of Córdoba. 

The fourth part covers the prominent events in the lives of the rulers of the Kingdom of Granada. It culminates with the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain and, of course, includes the fall of Granada in 1492. 

French author M.Florian wrote the book in the 18th century. It is a comprehensive history of the Moors in Spain. 

Robert Bovington Roquetas de Mar
May 2015

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paperback reproduction of the original edition

 other blogs by Robert Bovington:
"Photographs of Spain"
"Spanish Impressions"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Washington Irving (1783-1859)

by Robert Bovington

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One of the books that all lovers of Spain and its culture should have on their bookshelves is 'Tales of the Alhambra'. The American romantic writer Washington Irving wrote it following an extended stay in Granada.

Whilst in Spain, working for the American Legation, he had spent a brief time in Sevilla before setting out for Granada with a Russian travelling companion in April 1829. On arriving in this beautiful city, he immediately fell under its spell. He had the extraordinary good fortune to spend several months living in the Alhambra. The book is one of the classic travel books. It is a groundbreaking account of his time there including folklore and local gossip about the handsome princes and learned Moors who had lived in the palace during the years of the Moorish Kings' residencies.


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Washington Irving had already achieved success as a writer - he had written 'The History of Christopher Columbus' and 'Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada' before his visit to the Alhambra as well as a number of other works that included biographies and essays. However, he is perhaps best known for his short stories. His most famous being 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' and 'Rip Van Winkle'.
In 1806, he had qualified as a lawyer but writing was his first love and, following his early successes in this field, he was assured of earning a living as an author - so much so that he was the first American author to achieve International fame. Another title attributed to him was 'first American man of letters'.



more blogs by Robert Bovington...

"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"