Books of interest…
Cervantes has continued for centuries to draw readers and scholars as Don Quixote tilts at his windmills. Spanish history and its conquistadores hold a wide sway over the imagination of the locals and the North Americans. The story of Spain while not as complex as say the Middle East, is long, varied and punctuated with the Moorish occupation.
Where does a reader go to satisfy their curiosity?
At 900+ pages James Michener’s “Iberia” is a reference book, a travel guide, a history and much more. It was written by a man that held Spain in high regard from an early age. The sub title is ‘Spanish travel and reflections’. This is my best reference for many day trips across Spain. Highly recommended.
It may surprise many readers that America’s Washington Irving is esteemed in Andalucia. His “Tales of the Alhambra” is still widely read. There is the well marked Washington Irving route across many villages where he was known to have visited. His book, “The Tales of the Alhambra” bring the Alhambra to life. Keep in mind it is highly romanticized about the Moorish inhabitants but still a popular primer to southern Spain.
Seneca- ‘On the Shortness of Life’ This is one where the writer speaks loudly thru the ages. For many Spaniards he is alive in their lives and actions. It is short tome, a quick read, it is a real classic. Some Spaniards will say every person in Spain follows the philosophy of either Seneca or Cervantes.
“Death in the Afternoon” by Ernest Hemingway, the sports book and the only sports book written by a winner of a Nobel Prize. Bull fighting is a national heritage of Spain and some basic grasp of the theatre that surrounds the arena and the matador will produce a nuanced opinion. [Hint the costume is called the custom of lights, custumbre de luz.]
A second bullfighting book by Hemingway written at the end of his career, “Dangerous Spring” is really for the reader that wants a deeper understanding of the arena and the lives of the killer of bulls, el matador.
‘Lords of the Atlas’ The rise and fall of the House of Glaouna 1893-1956 by Gavin Maxwell is a history of modern Morocco. Morocco is a melting pot and a cross roads. The influences are many and varied and not always easy to see or understand. This will give the reader many clues as to why these people and their country is appealing and so special. This is not a book for everyone and there will be times the book is tossed aside but to goes well beyond a simple tourist view of Morocco. It is essential reading if you plan an extended stay.
“Sherry Manzanilla Montilla” - A guide to the traditional wines of Andalucia’, Peter Liem & Jesus Barquin. This is a professional wine book about fino and the special wines produced in the south of Spain. There are others on the topic but this is what the experts read.
Luis Gutierrez, ‘The New Vigerons’ sub title ‘the new generation of Spainish wine growers’. If you intend to stay longer than a week this maybe a good wine guide. Spain is the largest producer of wines in the world nowadays. The wines regions, the grapes, varied styles and blends will richly reward those that know what they are buying and when to buy it. It is a professional’s wine book.
‘A Guide to Fortified Wines’ - Pauline & Sheldon Wasserman. This slim older edition has all the beginner needs know to enjoy a port, fino, ollorosso, Pedro Ximenez [aka PX] or wines of Montilla=Morales. Recall that the food must match the wine. With seafood, especially fried seafood a clear crisp chilled fino is the classic paring.
George Orwell “Homage to Catalonia” a well known book on the Spanish civil war. Again, not for the casual reader but a good read.
“Morocco” - Hueges D’Emelde [check spelling] A coffee table book by Teschan and it is a visual treat. It is long out of print but it may linger in the local library or online. It captures the mood and scale of the lands.
“Moorish Spain” by Richard Fletcher This 1992 book provides a picture of the Moors during their attempt to conquer Spain. There are regional conflicts and endless battles. Names and many familiar names rise and fall thru the narrative and slavery is a constant. A well written history that casts light on an era not many really delve into including the Spanish.
A lasting truth for us is that the writer is the most immortal of beings. They are by their written text allowed to produce conversations, share experiences, or provoke debate years maybe, even centuries after their death.
Our family reads a lot, we read widely and sometimes in a random manner but books are a big part of our home and we hope that these texts are useful in you Iberian adventures. So there you have it, my Spanish, Moorish, and Moroccan reading list. It is not complete and will surely expand as soon as this is published. We welcome your ideas and referrals.
The J Wilder Group