INTRO: Every week we post based on the tips and information of the ‘Typical Spain’ author Frieda Kleinjan a trip through Spain but in a different way. The writer does this by means of well-known and lesser-known books and novels in order to make the link between travel, culture and literature during the weekly ‘literary travel guide of Spain’, a must for readers who want to ‘literary tourism’. to do. The books can be ordered immediately via the links in the article, so that you can start your literary journey through Spain.
You could describe literary tourism as a kind of cultural tourism that has developed in places related to events in fictional texts. In other words, it’s a new kind of cultural tourism that connects fiction with the real world.
Madrid as a literary source of inspiration
There is no doubt that Madrid should not be missing from the list of cities where literature occupies an important place. Over the centuries, it has been the source of inspiration for countless (play) writers and poets, including great names from the Golden Age. Especially in the Barrio de las Letras you see a lot of that. It’s not for nothing that this district is considered the most literary place in the city, which includes the literature museum of the great playwright Lope de Vega, in a street named after his eternal enemy, the author of Don Quixote. It is an ideal area to escape the bustle of the center, full of nice restaurants, bars, beautiful streets, where on the floor are written quotes in golden letters from some of the most famous poets and writers of the Spanish Golden Age, such as those of Luis Góngora, Calderón de la Barca, Francisco de Quevedo, Cervantes… As well as statues of the great names and the houses where they lived, even some churches where their remains rest. But Madrid has more outward literary features, such as Cervantes’ monument in Plaza de España. And don’t forget it Museo del escritor, unique in the world, devoted entirely to objects, more than five thousand: manuscripts, photographs, first editions…, by Spanish-language writers, including Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, but also living authors such as Rosa Montero and Antonio Muñoz Molina . The museum is housed in the Centro de Arte Moderno.
Almudena Grandes: ‘Manolita’s three weddings’
The Spanish writer Almudena Grandes, who died suddenly in 2021 at the age of 61, describes in her novel Manolita’s Three Weddings, Las tres bodas de ManolitaAn interesting but also dark period in Spanish history. The main character is the young Manolita, who takes care of her sister and brothers after the death of her father and the arrest of her stepmother. Her older brother Antonio is hiding in a flamenco tablao.
The story is set in Madrid, in the Antón Martín neighborhood, between the 1940s and 1950s and is told in chronological order; interrupted by a look back at the 1930s. The reader can immerse himself for seven hundred pages in the everyday life of that time, with its poverty and destruction, love, friendship and courage. Always from a different person around Manolita, both real and fictional. In her visual style, Almudena Grandes brings countless characters to life, who also have a nickname and pet name. Everything shows that she is very critical of the regime of the then dictator Franco.
During the war years, Manolita was able to keep things going through hard work, but in the post-war period poverty was an asset for those who resisted the regime; you had to constantly look over your shoulder and not stand out. Through her brother Antonio, she becomes increasingly involved in the resistance, even though she has nothing to do with politics. Despite playing a modest role in it, she is the hub of the circle of friends around her. thus indirectly dealing with the terrible consequences of the fascist regime.
These are stories full of drama that Grandes tells her readers, about dramatic loves and terrible terror, but also of perseverance and sacrifice. After reading it, in today’s modern metropolis, you can imagine the buses driving by, smelling of sweat, of moldy food, and of every passenger the shadow of prison clothes with a metal cage around his chest with his or someone else’s pain.
CLICK HERE to order this book: Almudena Grandes, Manolita’s three weddings, Signatuur publishing house, 2015, translation: Mia Buursma and Rikkie Degenaar.
Ben Lerner: ‘Departure from Atocha Station’
Due to its success in the United States, the novel by American poet Ben Lerner (1979), Leaving Atocha Stationtranslated into several languages, including in Spanish and Dutch with the title respectively Saliendo de la Estación Atocha and Departure from Atocha . station . The venue is the Madrid of a few years before the financial crisis (2008-2014), with the Prado, the Plaza de Santa Ana and the Chueca district as the most important places. The capital is about to experience one of the saddest events in its history: the terrorist attack on Atocha station.
The name of the main character from Departure from Atocha . station, is Adam Gordon, a young American, presumably a poet. He has been awarded a prestigious grant for a ‘poetic project’ about the Spanish Civil War, which he knows nothing about. He feels like an outsider in Madrid, doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions, what he really feels, the language is foreign to him and he doesn’t understand what others say to him. Instead of working on his project, he fills his days with tranquilizers, parties, joints and alcohol. He lives in an attic on the Plaza de Santa Ana, from where he watches tourists and accordionists. In his luggage is a bilingual edition of Lorca.
Almost every morning he goes to the Prado to watch the Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, known for the emotions in his religious art. One day another visitor stands in front of the painting and bursts out sobbing. Adam realizes that the man has a deep artistic experience, something he doesn’t know himself, and wonders if he is capable of it. Nevertheless, he is constantly looking for it.
Lerner’s story is based on his own experiences, as he tells in La Vanguardia. From this he has forged a character, an anti-hero who does not yet know what he wants, who doubts his true vocation: whether to become a poet or not.
The book is intriguing because of its aloof style. Adam Gordon is a tormented figure, full of fears and the distance he feels from himself and the world does not make him particularly happy. He considers himself a cynical neurotic and a liar, but also attractive and funny. And all described in a flowing style. But when an attack is made at the Atocha train station, Adam must choose whether to become part of these historic events or to watch from the sidelines.
CLICK HERE to order this book: Departure from Atocha station, Atlas Contact publisher, 2012, translation Ronald Vlek
The book ‘Typical Spain tour through a quirky country’ written and composed by Frieda Kleinjan , is a collection of fascinating stories on various subjects: architecture, visual arts, literature, sport, film, nature, music, traditions… All these different cultural expressions form the identity of Spain, reveal its soul, show the country in all its shades. There is something new to discover for every Spain lover. CLICK HERE to order this book.
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