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The Alhambra (Wonders of the World) Hardcover – 8 Jan 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; First Edition edition (8 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861974124
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861974129
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 14.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,307,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Specky Bob on 30 Aug 2004
Format: Hardcover
Irwin shows the Alhambra not as a static historical monument but as a group of buildings which is full of historical and cultural change and anachronism. We are reminded that the Alhambra as we see it today is not the simple product of the Islamic rule which ended in 1492, but is the result of numerous acts of demolitions, extensions, rebuilding and (not always faithful) restorations by different hands. He presents the sense of historical and cultural dynamism or chaos well, depending on how you look at it. Whatever its history, the book does justice to the art and architecture of the place, and while being highly informative, it also skilfully captures its charms. Such a fresh approach seems quite appropriate for the theme of the `Wonders of the World' series of which this volume is a part. This is no banal `guide book'.
The latter half of the book deals with the widespread tendency for the Alhambra to be presented in literature and art in terms of what people wanted to see in it or what they thought it represented. Irwin gives an interesting account of the examples of often unhistorical legends, romanticism, nostalgia and Orientalism to which the Alhambra have given rise. But he remains judicious and does not take the moral high ground of judging them. Whatever you think of them, such products and influence of the Alhambra seem to be in accord with the fact that past rulers and restorers rebuilt it according to what they wanted/thought the place to be like. They all form part of what makes Alhambra today.
A section on further reading at the end is quite detailed. His practial advice on visiting the place is also useful and rounds off the book as a guide book. On a separate note, the book is beautifully designed, printed on quality paper in an elegant font; it guarantees a pleasurable read.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 6 Jan 2006
Format: Hardcover
One is almost immediately captured by this book from the very opening paragraphs - there is wonderful description of the Alhambra from the perspective of tourist guidebooks which would lead a visitor through the many palaces, chambers, and courts, filling in detail about the history from both Muslim and Christian eras. Then author Robert Irwin lets the reader know the sad truth - almost all of what is presented on this virtual tour is almost all false. The Alhambra is, if nothing else, a greatly misunderstood place, perhaps an architectural embodiment of Emerson's dictum about greatness.
The Alhambra, a grand structure on the outskirts of Granada in southern Spain, is in fact a series of palaces, perhaps more akin to the Forbidden City in China than any European or Islamic palatial counterpart. It is also the only medieval Islamic palace to survive - tradition was among Islamic rulers was to abandon the palace of the old ruler in favour of building a new one, and often the old palaces were razed for building materials - if not by the new ruler, then by the population around the old palaces, now no longer guarded. It is somewhat ironic that it may be because the Alhambra came to be part of Christendom that it, as a classic Islamic building, came to survive at all.
Irwin gives a revised tour of the facility following the virtual tour of false information - in this he describes the different palaces, the functions of different buildings and courtyards, and the influence the Alhambra has had both in artistic imagination as well as political and military significance.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By S. L. McInerney on 1 Mar 2006
Format: Paperback
Without this book, my appreciation of The Alhambra when we visited in December would never have rewarded my senses as much as it did.
This book is not just another guide to the most visited monument in Spain. This one probes deeper into the history and culture that surrounds the amazing legend that is this Moorish delight. After the introduction I was hooked: the first few pages documented a ‘history’ of the Alhambra, lots of which I had already heard from TV documentaries and read in books or on the internet. And then the strike: all of what I had just read was based on myth and legend. Absolutely none of it could be proved!
In this book, Robert Irwin sets out to do what no other author on the same subject has done: to bring together every story, myth and legend, try it, test it, and if he can’t prove it or come up with a better explanation, leave it to be mystified over for the next 500 years. This is not about what we want to see the amazing palace complex as seen through our rose-tinted glasses; it’s what it really is. A town built by a bloody and threatened race, defended and finally conquered by the Catholic King Ferdinand and his Queen Isabella.
There are few pictures in the book and those that are there are black and white. But this book doesn’t need pictures, it’s descriptives are so good, so illustrated, that you find your eyes diverting from the text, closing while you imagine the splendour and wealth that used to live within those walls.
As I explored The Alhambra, every chapter, paragraph and sentence of this book came back to me, filling me with a sense of awe and understanding. Bare walls with chipped tiles became vibrantly coloured facades, covered with rich wall hangings.
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