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Granite Island: Portrait of Corsica (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 29 May 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (29 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141442271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141442273
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Publisher

A classic of travel writing -- new to Classics, with an introduction by Rolli Lucarotti. Conjuring a fast-vanishing world of unbroken tradition, bandits, spirits and visionaries in evocative prose, Granite Island is a valuable historical record of a highly individualistic culture and a luminous work of travel writing.

About the Author

Dorothy Carrington (1910-2002) was a gifted travel writer and historian who would not merely describe a place, but would delve into the very core of a people's identity. Having once intended to wander the world and write many books about many places, she was so captivated by Corsica on her first visit to the island, in 1948, that she never left, and after writing a definitive portait of Corsica, Granite Island (1971), she went on to explore the curious family background of the most famous Corsican, in Napoleon and his Parents on the Threshold of History (1988), while her final book, The Dream Hunters of Corsica (1995), examines the mysterious dark side of the Corsican psyche.


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Dorothy Carrington's magical and atmospheric book about Corsica - Granite Island - has been republished as a Penguin Classic edition. For those of you who purchased (or have read) the original, there is one important reason why you should acquire this new edition: the book contains a full and brightly written introduction by Rolli Lucarotti. This introduction gives a full and interesting account of the author's colourful life and career.

To my great regret, I never met Dorothy Carrington, though I have met a number of people who knew her personally as a friend or acquaintance. Without exception, all speak warmly of her and some of this warmth radiates from the pages containing Rolli's introductory words. Without giving too much away, she tells us of Dorothy's dramatic early life, leaving university because of "the way English was taught" and also because of "the restrictions placed on women who were not expected to do much more than read". So she eloped with an Austrian aristocrat and went to live in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It was here that she began writing articles for magazines and where the foundations of her writing career were established.

However, the annexation of Austria by Germany as World War II approached caused her to rethink: finding herself with a German Passport, she divorced her husband and hurried back to England. Her first visit to Corsica did not happen until 1948.

Although Dorothy Carrington's research for Granite Island took place in the years between 1948 and the 1960s, the book is still gripping, still relevant and most important of all, still highly readable (despite being used as a textbook in social anthropology studies, according to Rolli's introduction!
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Format: Paperback
The Granite Island is Dorothy Carrington's ode to this often overlooked Mediterranean island. In this book, beautifully written, deeply researched and personally experienced, her love and fascination with Corsica shines forth, beginning with her arrival as a tourist in the 1950's. It only ended with her death there in 2002 at the age of 91. From ancient to modern, She reveals the layers of this convoluted culture, so rooted in vengeance, violence and ancient, implacable enmity, yet tempered by benevolence, hospitality, and a sweet current of sorrow. Banditry, black magic, haunting polyphony, merge against a backdrop of astonishing beauty. From the rugged alpine mountains and coastline with its cliffs, coves and sunny beaches - nothing is forgotten as she guides us on this unforgettable journey, replete with unique characters, saints, sinners, legends, tragedies and triumphs.
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Provides a fascinating insight into a Corsica which has all-but disappeared. Carrington first visited the island in 1948, so why was this book not published for another quarter of a century? The answer is that Dorothy Carrington spent that time getting to know the Corsican people and struggling to understand their cultural and moral values, in terms of European cultures and in particular, those of the occupying forces which periodically controlled the island. She reached a level of comprehension which is both profound and revealing and explains it in terms that the European reader can understand.

The book starts, appropriately enough with the Neolithic people of Filitosa and Dorothy Carrington's role in bringing their menhirs to the attention of the outside world. This was some of the earliest evidence of human occupation of the island, as well as some of Carrington's first experience of Corsica. It is also central to her thesis. The book describes and tries to understand the vendetta system, under which Corsicans could be morally obliged to kill their neighbour, over issues which appear to outsiders as trivial. It describes the traditional marriage, arranged by the family and sealed with a kiss in the bride's living room, before being consummated in her bedroom, without any formal ceremony. None of this is part of the Christian tradition or that of any of the later occupying forces.

Dorothy Carrington believes that these traditions evolved from the Neolithic culture, long protected by the Corsicans' successful resistance to all occupying forces and helped by the very inaccessibility of the island. The Greeks, the Romans, various Germanic tribes and in historical times the Genoese controlled Corsica.
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Maybe the best travel book I have ever read. Carrington is a very intelligent, educated and brave observer of every detail, present and past, in Corsica. I have never been there, and am SO happy I read this book ahead of any future visit to the island I know now that has fostered the first democratic movements in modern Europe. (!!) I just wish she could have been a bit more personal. Of her own feelings we get to know little. She is a professional traveller, with a humble, tolerant and very loving eye and heart. They even get away with murder in her eyes! Because, murder is part of our destiny since megalithic times. She manages to intervene values, beliefs, fears and fights for life into the culture of modern man. The story of Corsica, told this way, is the story of humanity, in its shadows, passions, corners and islands. The essence of something - everything ?....I feel like going there, meet her ghost in the ruins of Calvi, with Tao. I want to hear those songs she heard, the tangos, the way they talk and walk. I want to see those valleys and mountain spears, and swim in her coves and beaches. I want to drink eau-de-vie with her in a Sartenais cafe and observe the vendetta ridden teenagers as they cautiously pass us. And, I want to read it again and look up every word I did not understand, because her English is very rich and beautiful.
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