Customer Review

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating, informative and evocative, 30 Aug 2004
This review is from: The Alhambra (Wonders of the World) (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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