November 20, 2011

Watertown, MA. October, 2011

When a favorite writer authors a book about a favorite city, well.... Irish novelist and journalist Colm Tóibín spent much of his restless twenties in Barcelona, just at the end of Franco’s reign and afterwards. So his book serves up multiple perspectives. Not just his own as a foreigner (no matter how much Catalan he studied or how many Spaniards he slept with) but also those of the lifelong residents whose confidences and memories he secured. A great book, Homage to Barcelona (whose title offers a respectful nod to Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia) provides an insider’s look into the city’s various neighborhoods and sights, of course. But also an accessible and enjoyably readable look at how being Catalan informed the visions of such native masters as Picasso, Gaudí, Miró and Casals. It’s also the first book I’ve come across to make sense for me of the various factions involved in the Spanish Civil War and how they interacted over those turbulent years, how Franco’s tenure suppressed (but didn’t snuff out) the art, the language, the heart of Catalonia.

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