I usually bring you reviews or articles, but this week I’ve been busy with a special project. Those who follow my personal blog will know that a few months ago I started volunteering at a local radio station, Penistone FM. I’ve got to the point where I’m going to provide my own content for the next programme, tomorrow (26th of January) from 5 to 8 pm (GMT time). You can follow online if you have a chance, here.
I knew I wanted to talk about books, and I thought, being from Barcelona, Spain I could choose some of my favourite books about Barcelona (not necessarily about Barcelona, but where Barcelona plays a big part).
Here are my three favourite. I was going to say in no particular order, but the last one is one of my favourite books of all the books I’ve ever read. From the comments, not everybody is enamoured with the translation, but other people seem to enjoy it. I didn’t dare to review them for you, as I’ve read them either in Spanish or Catalan, and didn’t want to generalise my comments to the translations, that I hadn’t personally checked.
The Shadow of the Wind: by Carlos Ruíz Zafón
A stunning literary thriller in the tradition of Umberto Eco. The discovery of a forgotten book leads to a hunt for an elusive author who may or may not still be alive…
Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘cemetery of lost books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘La Sombra del Viento’ by Julian Carax.
But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.
You can check links in the authors’ website:
Here, what Stephen King says about the book:
‘If you thought the gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind. In Zafón’s hands, every scene seems to come from an early Orson Wells movie. One gorgeous read.’
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
A masterful epic of love, war, treason, plague, famine, witchcraft, anti-Semitism and the Inquisition.
14th-century Spain, the medieval city of Barcelona is enjoying a golden age of prosperity. Its humblest inhabitants are building, stone by stone, a magnificent church to overlook their harbour. This is the Cathedral of the Sea: a church to be built for the people by the people.
In its shadow, Arnau, a young serf on the run from his feudal lord, struggles to earn his freedom. After famine, plague and thwarted love, Arnau’s fortunes begin to turn when King Pedro makes him a baron as a reward for his courage in battle. But he is also forced to marry Eleonor, a ward of the King whom he does not love. His newfound status excites jealousy from his friends who plot his downfall with devastating consequences. Arnau’s journey from slave to nobleman is the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn Church against State and brother against brother …
And my all time favourite:
In Diamond Square by Mercé Rodoreda
Barcelona, early 1930s: Natalia, a pretty shop-girl from the working-class quarter of Gracia, is hesitant when a stranger asks her to dance at the fiesta in Diamond Square. But Joe is charming and forceful, and she takes his hand.
They marry and soon have two children; for Natalia it is an awakening, both good and bad. When Joe decides to breed pigeons, the birds delight his son and daughter – and infuriate his wife. Then the Spanish Civil War erupts, and lays waste to the city and to their simple existence. Natalia remains in Barcelona, struggling to feed her family, while Joe goes to fight the fascists, and one by one his beloved birds fly away.
A highly acclaimed classic that has been translated into more twenty-eight languages, In Diamond Square is the moving, vivid and powerful story of a woman caught up in a convulsive period of history.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope if you’re planning a visit to Barcelona, or even if you’re not, you check these books. And keep reading! (And listen to my programme if you dare!)
Olga Núñez Miret