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The Tomb in Seville Hardcover – 13 Dec 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (13 Dec. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786714395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786714391
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 15.1 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,544,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"It is fitting that Norman Lewis's last book should be about Spain...which he has written about most eloquently for sixty years."

Book Description

Another delightful travel book by the master (2003-03-03) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
The book doesn't really capture the mood of Spain on the brink of civil war - the tone is always slightly flippant - but it does provide a fascinating account of life on the Iberian peninsular in the 1930s, particularly in the rural areas. It is truly amazing that within living memory there were people in Europe living in essentially medieval conditions - there are communities on the verge of starvation, people so backwards the townsfolk believe them to be Vandals or Visigoths, families living in caves and, in one village in Portugal, even an account of a recent witch burning.

It is these accounts that are really fascinating. The descriptions of uprisings, rebellions and street battles show what a turbulent time it was, but fail to capture anything of the terror or violence. This is probably due to the fact the book was written so long after the event, which also has a distorting effect in other ways. Time seems to stretch and contract, and major events go unmentioned, or without explanation. One example being that it takes them weeks of arduous, disrupted travel to get across Spain to Seville (the account of which is the point of the book) but when the get there they call the father in law in London who decides to join them - arriving in just a couple of days.

Apart from the slight feeling that the narrator is watching events from afar rather than actually experiencing them, and maybe a little too much natural history for my personal taste, this is definitely worth a read. Memorable, but by no means perfect.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Acknowledged as one of the greatest, but most little known, travel writers, Norman Lewis lived a long and remarkably full life. As with most - if not all - writers who want to succeed his devotion to his own life and work was considerable. The effort was worth it, because he illuminates his pages with a vivid sense of place and time - and the time feels like NOW, or at worst yesterday. The tragedy of the five year Spanish Civil war has inspired many other writers like Hemingway and Laurie Lee to name but two. But Lewis's Spain is special, coloured as it is by a kaleidoscopic memory and a certain degree of imagination. Lewis's' life is the subject of an excellent biography, "Semi Invisible Man" by Julian Evans. The title relates to Lewis's lack of wider fame.
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Format: Paperback
I have heard Norman Lewis referred to as the first really modern travel writer, but I wonder if that is true. Whether or not he was the first, however, the sheer volume and quality of Lewis’s work do mark him out. The Tomb in Seville was his last book and to was published posthumously in the autumn of 2003; he had died several months earlier at the age of 95.

Lewis was born in 1908 - in London, but to Welsh parents. Both were ardent spiritualists, and his upbringing (described vividly in his first volume of autobiography, Jackdaw Cake, was strange. As a young man he pursued various ventures, including the motor trade and motor racing, and was married, quite young, to the daughter of a Sicilian of noble Spanish descent, Ernesto Corvaja.

In September 1934, his father-in-law sent him on a mission to Seville in search of the Corvaja ancestral tomb, which Corvaja hoped would be found in the cathedral. His son, Eugene Corvaja, travelled with Lewis. The Tomb in Seville is the account of their journey.

There are some very odd things about this book, not least that it appeared not just posthumously but nearly 70 years after the journey it described. At the time, at least one critic expressed wonder that Lewis should still be writing so well in his 90s, but one wonders if this book was actually written much earlier. It may be that Lewis intended it as part of Jackdaw Cake, published nearly 20 years before - but then held it back for some reason, so that it remained unfinished business for decades. Certainly it has the air of something written much sooner after the event than 70 years.

Equally odd was the timing of their journey.
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With so few books about civil war Spain, yes, really, unless it is a tiresome novel about Guernica. Again. Here is a mix of travel book, history and novel - all in one. And written so vividly, as if you are there, in the moment.

Two men travel to Seville to see if they can find an ancestor's tomb and end up mixed in the first stages of the civil war with detours around the country and into Portugal. A real feel for the poverty and politics but yet with touches of joy.

A lost world. Do read it.
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