Good Reading : April 2010
APRIL 2010 ı goodreading 31 book city not the Spain of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises or Arturo Pérez-Reverte's The Club Dumas. Barcelona is a different city to Madrid, with a different language, different food and a different culture. Barcelona has always a complicated relationship with Madrid, and the locals are fiercely proud of their language and heritage (which was suppressed for many years under Franco). When Barcelona- born expat Carlos Ruiz Zafón became Spain's most successful living author, locals were reportedly upset that he chose to write in Spanish rather than Catalan. Cor ruption and politics, independence, civil war and humour are common themes in Catalan fiction. And with the boom in Euro-crime over the last ten years, it has been a modest goldmine, with novelists like Alicia Giménez-Bartlett and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán seeing wide translation. Some of these titles might take a little tracking down, but with a few by your side, it's like having a personal guide to the city. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón Equal parts Gothic romance, literary detective story and love letter to Barcelona, this is one of the most popular Spanish novels in history -- its sales only surpassed by Don Quixote. If you only read one book before visiting, this is it. Southern Seas and Tattoo by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán Two novels featuring book-burning private detective and gour mand Pepe Carvalho. Inspired by US detective fiction (Montalbán won the Raymond Chandler prize), his books are a secret history of moder n Barcelona in the Franco era and beyond. Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones An epic historical drama set in medieval Barcelona, it's the rags-to-riches story of a runaway serf and his brother during the Spanish Inquisition. Perfect for sunbaking at Barceloneta Beach. The City of Marvels by Eduardo Mendoza Another rags-to-riches story, this time set between the Barcelona Universal Expositions of 1888 and 1929. Although it predates the Franco era, it's all about development, greed and power. The Time of the Doves by Mercè Rodoreda A stream of consciousness novel about a young woman's life during the Civil War. This is more than a political novel, though it was written at a time when Franco had forbidden Catalans to speak and publish in their own language. The Enormity of the Tragedy by Quim Monzo Monzo is one of the best known contemporary Catalan writers, and this novel -- about a man cursed with a per manent erection -- is a surprising mix of the comic and the melancholy. Not what you'd expect. A Not So Perfect Crime by Teresa Solana Solana came to Australia in 2009 for the Melbourne Writers' Festival, so locals may be familiar with her. If not, you're in for a treat: her debut is both a satire and a noir crime novel that pokes fun at contemporary Barcelona. Great plot, great characters, great fun. Wonderful World by Javier Calvo A massive, postmoder n doorstop of a book from one of Barcelona's rising stars (a Catalan David Foster Wallace). Sex, drugs and art theft, and a precocious 12-year- old who claims to be the Top European Expert on the Work of Stephen King. Barcelona: The grand enchantress by Robert Hughes Hughes has been an occasional resident and long-time lover of the city, and he combines history, culture, food and art in this city biography first published (as Barcelona) for the 1992 Olympics, and since pared down and reissued. Homage to Barcelona by Colm Tóibín Well-known today for his fiction, Tóibín lived in Barcelona for a period in the 1970s before becoming a jour nalist. This collection of essays is an excellent introduction to its history, culture, politics, art, architecture and food. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell Every Orwell book is a lesson in good writing. From idealism to frustration and bitter betrayal, this is a record of his experience as a militiaman, an explanation of how and why socialism failed in Spain, and a prelude to the suppression of the Catalans that would last until Franco's death.