Archive for Librarius

Sacred Sierra



Now they say everyone has a book in them and I am no exception. Except, rather bizarrely, someone else has written mine for me. Except it’s about him. Or rather it’s a book about renovating an old farm and living in the mountains of Castellon. Ok, we are Andalucia, but apart from the language his experiences were the same as ours.  (Valencian is more akin to Catalan than Castillian and Andalucian is more akin to Castillian spoken through a pub microphone on music night. You only get to hear part of the word spoken).

 It is quite uncanny how similar his experiences were. The strange encounter with hunters, building disasters as a result of inclement weather, having a ‘thing’ about preying mantis, a wife who hates insect life (mine just hates snakes, odd in my book) and like me he is from the north of England. Not that that in itself singles him out as a man living in a parallel universe.

 Suffice to say I enjoyed the book immensely, how could I not. It’s a beautiful evocation of life in the southern Spanish mountains, this lifestyle and these people. What I like most is all the background he puts into each chapter, with folk tales and histories and the way they still shape peoples lives here. And best of all for me were the excerpts from Ibn al-Awam’s ‘Kitab al-Falaha’, The Book of Agriculture from a 12th century Moor.

 I look forward to reading more. Guerra is his book on the civil war in Spain. Duende is a look inside the world of Flamenco. I feel a small shopping spree at Amazon coming on.

 I actually dropped the author an e-mail via his web site to say how uncannily similar his experiences were to ours and I was very surprised to get a reply. He likes our blog too and has promised to make a link from his web page to this ‘if I can work out how to do it’ is what he said. I find that refreshing.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Comments (2)

The Gun


With the rain and howling wind outside it’s a good time to sit down by the fire with a new book. The children are watching ‘anime’, Laputa, castle in the sky and I’ve run short of some fiction. Time to raid my old collection of Penguins.

This one’s an historical drama based around the Spanish guerrilla war with the occupying Napoleonic army. Not my usual choice of fiction I must admit and here lies the dilemma. Can I discard the faces of Frank Sinatra as a Spanish army officer and Cary Grant as an English army officer in Spain to lend a hand against imperial France. You see The Gun was made into a film in 1957 called ‘The Pride and the Passion’. I might stick with the love interest (Sophia Loren) when I come across her character though. It is fiction!

Don’t know if I’ll make it from front to back though Forester’s series of books about Hornblower were much admired by Hemingway and Churchill alike. I’ve never put those two names together in a sentence before, but now I come to think of it they are rather snug. Two great wordsmiths if nothing else.

Now where’s my pipe?

  • Share/Save/Bookmark


Un Chien Andalou


The story goes that Frederico Garcia Lorca (the pilot here) erroneously believed that the film by Dali and Bunuel Un Chien Andalou  (an Andalucian Dog) referred to him, coming from Granada, having recently fallen out with his surrealist friends. This to my mind seems  doubly pained paranoia if you have seen the film. And who needed Dali as a friend anyway? (Walt Disney actually).

But his legacy is outstanding, in particular Blood Wedding based on a true story just down the mountain from here in Nijar.

Being gay, he was killed, shot by Nationalist militia, and bayoneted in the behind on 19th of August 1936. He was then thrown into an unmarked grave somewhere between Viznar and Alfacar, near Granada.  The dossier compiled at Franco’s request has yet to surface.

That’s fascists for you.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Comments (1)

Did Thy Earth Move For Thee?



That was not a bit of light holiday reading. Anthony Burgess called it ‘The best fictional report on the Spanish Civil War that we possess’. Fictional it maybe, but having read other non fictional reports of the conflict, I would say that the book successfully transcends the divide between the truth and fiction. Civil wars are made all the more bloody, compared to national conflicts, when we slaughter our own countrymen and neighbours. Especially when local politics were kidnapped and used to justify jealousy and avarice.

On a more fatuous level, I have always been prejudiced against Hemingway having had a tutor who was obsessed with him. Now I like obsessive ‘nerds’, especially when their obsession is in pursuit of something really ‘nerdy’. But to be obsessed by a macho ‘huntin’, shootin’, womanisin’, hard drinkin’ all American hero rather errs on the inadequate in my book. And when years later said tutor turns up on a Bob Monkhouse vehicle ‘quiz show’, specialist subject Hemingway, and answers all the questions correctly. Well, he is a lecturer in English literature. He is supposed to get all the questions right.

 Oh and yes! The immortal expression ‘ did the earth move for you darling’ comes from this book. And what is more, coming from the north of England, where all the old folk, when I was but a lad, spoke in this strange Biblical manner of ‘thee and thy’ it was slightly disconcerting that Hemingway chose this form of English to represent the speech idioms of the peasant Spanish. It took a long time for me to dispel the image of a Spanish proletarian land worker in a flat cap with a ferret down his trouser leg. Maybe that image is more accurate than I imagined. Now I really am being fatuous.

 P.S. Another picture taken with the camera phone!

  • Share/Save/Bookmark


Asterix in Spain


I recently introduced the twins to Asterix. Tintin they have seen as DVD animation but they have not read the books. Asterix in a cartoon strip is something else. Now this is an age old debate similar to saying…

“Did you like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” Well for me it’s got to be Asterix. When was Tintin ever funny? They have one thing in common however and maybe it’s a product of their generation, but they were very fond of racial stereotypes.

I’ve got to say though in this instance they were spot on. Ave Caesar, ave Asterix.

P.S. I liked The Doors

  • Share/Save/Bookmark


Cortijos, haciendas y lagares


This picture is of Cortijo del Fraile, Nijar and is taken from a fantastic book called ‘Cortijos, haciendas and lagares’ in the province of Almeria. It’s a book published by the ‘Junta de Andalucia’ to celebrate the agrarian vernacular architecture and lifestyle of old and it is a gem. It is full of ‘plan’ drawings representing the relationship of farm buildings to each other and satellite pictures illustrating the lie of the land and explanations as to how these old farming systems operated.

To our great joy ‘Cortijada Los Gazquez’ is in here but alas in no detail. It is there as an illustration to compare and contrast the different architectural styles employed to deal with the climatic differences between the ‘desert’ land of southern Almeria and the mountains to the north.

Sadly most of these buildings are crumbling into extinction with just a handful in use. Happily for us ours is restored and will once again work as a farm building in our alpine desert.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark


George Orwell aka Eric Blair the MI5 perspective.


File ref KV 2/2699

This slim Security Service file on journalist and author Eric Blair, alias George Orwell, shows that while his left-wing views attracted the Service’s attention, no action was taken against him. It is clear, however, that he continued to arouse suspicions, particularly with the police, that he might be a Communist. The file reveals that the Service took action to counter these views.

The file essentially consists of reports of Orwell’s activities between 1929 and his death in 1952. It gives some insight into Orwell’s financial position while in Paris and includes a 1929 MI6 report to the Special Branch on his activities there, and various subsequent Special Branch reports. One of these by police Sergeant Ewing, from January 1942 (serial 7a), asserts that: “This man has advanced Communist views, and several of his Indian friends say that they have often seen him at Communist meetings. He dresses in a bohemian fashion both at his office and in his leisure hours.” A Service officer rang Ewing’s Inspector to challenge this view (minute 9). Wartime enquiries as to Orwell and his wife’s suitability for employment as a journalist and with the Ministry of Food were all approved. It is of some interest to note the part Orwell’s answers to a published Left magazine survey had in convincing the Service that Orwell should not be considered a Communist. The file includes a copy of Orwell’s passport papers and original passport photographs.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark


Homage to Catalonia


I cannot recommend this book enough. Once again participatory anthropology/journalism of the highest order from an old Etonian Trotskyist perspective of the Spanish Civil war. The writing is that of a political ‘hack’, pacy and emotionally under stated in describing the boredom, horror and discomfort of war.

What I would suggest is, with the first bit of hot weather you have, prop the patio door open with Anthony Beevor’s ‘The Battle for Spain’, and sit in the sunshine and read ‘Homage to Catalonia’. If you don’t already have an incisive knowledge of this national disaster you will have by the time you finish it.

Maybe it’s me but I can’t help but admire the bravery and candor of a man who confesses to running through crossfire clutching his hand to his cheek for fear of being shot in the face. I cannot help but admire his wife too, who is only ever referred to as ‘my wife’, who endures months of him fighting at the front while she is in an hotel in Barcelona only to have him run off on his first leave to participate in the inter faction fighting in the streets for two weeks before returning to the front. He makes no reference to any disquiet she may have had.

It’s a twentieth century classic description of a civil war anywhere and it’s a classic description of Spain and the Spanish.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark


Tales of the Old Sea


Having been ill for the past ten days at least I could take succour in this absolutely fantastic tome. Just after the second war the author moves to Spain and sets up on the Costa Brava in a tiny impoverished fishing village. The book is half anthropology half diary and is just a dream to read. He evokes the characters and customs of the place with such profound empathy and sensitivity whether their actions or beliefs are right or wrong. But essentially this is an account of the change that took place on the Spanish ‘Costas’ with the introduction of tourism. Tourism which brought wealth for the first time but smashed a lifestyle, culture and environment to smithereens. A must read whether you are interested in Spain or not.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark




Loved all the socio/historical connections with old Moorish Spain, the technology, the language the perpetuation of traditions, albeit mutated into a Christian world. He shows a great enthusiasm and passion for a subject he clearly knows a lot about. I always admire someone’s great insight into the history, culture and lives of others.

However, insight into manifesting a character, real or otherwise, has escaped the author in this case. The sub-plot of travelling around Andalucia with an illegal Moroccan immigrant was, in my opinion, just tedious, not engendering compassion or sympathy. It read like a device poorly executed.

Worth a read but you will have to suspend your own disbelief in the author’s contemporary world.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark


« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »