(2007) part of Signal Books’ Landscapes of the Imagination series.
The book is divided into three sections. The first covers briefly Catalonia’s Greek and Roman pre-history in lonely Empúries and imperial Tarragona and its conquests across the Mediterranean in the 13th and 14th centuries. Defeats by Spanish and French forces in the 1640s and 1714 reduced this nation to a province of Spain. The nineteenth-century national Renaissance intertwined with ferocious workers’ struggles.
The second section tackles Catalonia’s famous twentieth-century visual artists: the ultra-conservative revolutionary Gaudí and art nouveau, Dalí from Figueres, Miró from Montroig, the Impressionists Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas at Sitges and Picasso, whose passage through the Barcelona slums was so fertile.
The third section’s chapters focus on the twentieth century, discussing mass tourism at Lloret, FC Barcelona, Catalan food (bolets, mar i muntanya), the anarchist revolution of 1936 and Lleida’s great inland plain covered by orchards. The section describes, too, Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, one of Europe’s finest ensembles of Gothic buildings, and the allure of its outlying suburbs, where most people actually live.
What kind reviewers thought:
“There is irony in the text, understanding of the terrain, facts supporting personal impressions… A great contribution to international understanding of Catalonia, with the eye of someone who lives within but comes from without.” Quim Aranda, Avui
“This is psychogeography at its best! The author leads the reader through dreamlike towns and cities, which narrate the stories of their past and open doors to secrets carefully withheld from the buzz of sun-seeking tourists. All kinds of boundaries are crossed here, space, time, fact and fiction. Reader and author enter into a dialectical relationship with each other, imagining and remembering experiences, laughing at anecdotes, but most important of all, sharing the love for the country and the people who live in it. This is not a handbook for the weekend tourist but for those who know Catalonia and have emotional roots here. ” Elizabeth Russell, Universitat Rovira i Virgili.
(I must add to Elizabeth Russell’s wonderful words that she also rebukes me for including hardly any women.)