I bought Homage to Barcelona together with Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell in preparation for my vacation in Spain. Never having read anything by Colm Toibin, and recently back from my trip to Ireland I got tempted to start with this one. The result is that Homage to Catalonia is still unread, over a month after my trip to Spain.
The book was first published in 1990, but my edition was an updated version from 2002, so also included a chapter about 1992 Olympic Games. I enjoyed the book a lot and probably would have enjoyed it even more if I waited and read it while actually in Barcelona. Toibin is like a friend that lives in the city we visit and takes us for a walk to show us things as he sees them, not from a touist point of view. He tells a lot of stories and anecdotes associated with the places we pass by. The places stop being the-same-for-everyone-touristic-attractions from Eyewitness guide, they become personal, special. They gain smell, sound and light that is filtered by Toibin’s memory.
Toibin takes us through local traditions and their history, but also through his experience of it. We get to see and feel La Merce, sardana, experience time passing and changing the city, meet great artists that lived here and both formed and were formed by this place. We get to know how people live outside of Barcelona and where locals go to the beach. It’s just worth keeping in mind that this is a book from 1990 and some things have changed 🙂 I must admit that not knowing the history of Spanish Civil War and events shortly before it, I could not focus or easily follow all that was said about politics and war. Those parts felt the least personal and frankly a bit boring, luckily they were not too long.
Walking with Toibin through Barcelona’s history, slowly made me think, that maybe I was not acually going to visit Spain, as much as I thought, because our vacation were split between Bilbao and Barcelona, the two most separatist regions of Spain, each with their own language and stroong conviction of being a separate nation. The vacation and the next book I read confirmed this. I really, really recommend this book to anyone going to Barcelona, even if you’ve already been there it will make you see the city from a different perspective.
What was the best travel related book you read? Do you like reading about the cities/countries you’ll visit? Or maybe you look for fiction books based in those places?
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska