Spain is a proud and vibrant country. From the Middle Ages to post-Movida, here are three of the best books to read before travelling to Spain, where the Spanish soul shines through.
by Miguel Cervantes
Many of us have heard of the peregrinations of the gentleman who was entranced by tales knighthood and begins to travel his country, perched atop his horse, Rossinante, and accompanied by his squire. What a joy to read or reread the story before leaving for Spain. You'll take on a bit of Quixote; the inns where you'll stay will become enchanted castles, you'll encounter the pretty daughters of princesses, and, admiring the large white mills at the top of the Mancha hills, you'll understand how he could have thought of them as giants to be fought. Delightful and timeless.
And Picasso Painted Guernica
by Alain Serres
Not just a book for children but one of the best books for anyone to read before travelling to Spain. On 26 April 1937, in the heart of the Basque country, the village of Guernica was devastated by the bombing of German and Italian aircraft ordered by General Franco, engulfed in his bloody struggle against the Republic. With this manifestation of their power, the fascists performed a pre-war dress rehearsal, and the Spanish War took a dramatic turn : Franco would be Spain's dictator for the next forty years. Pablo Picasso reacted as a painter, taking out his brushes, producing multiple essays and sketches, and creating one of his greatest masterpieces, Guernica: 26ft of silent screams in a painting drained of Spain's usually omnipresent bold colours. The book allows us to witness how the painting emerged, and confronts it with the history of Spain and that of the painter. Sketches, photographs and details of the fresco highlight the creative process and power. 'Guernica' is one of Spain's most famous painting in the country, but it goes beyond the war. It also showed some culturally important Spanish elements.
Or I'll Dress You in Mourning
by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins
It's just before the confirmation bullfight of the young 'El Cordobes' in Madrid. Manuel Benitez de Cordou was born during the upheavals of civil war. Orphaned, illiterate, he lived in extreme poverty. He had to beg but the passion to live and to succeed. Whatever it took. His sister begged him to stop bullfighting, but was met with the response : 'Tonight, I'll buy you a house or you'll mourn me.' The rest of his story is well known and gives an insight into this bloody part of Spanish culture : Idolised by the public but rejected by some purists, he was at once the torero of the poor and the extravagant bullfighter. Walking the line between ancient drama and popular saga, Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins' book perfectly matches the character of the bullfighter figure that has been so strong in Spanish history.