Barcelona (Panther) Paperback – 25 Jan 2001
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Under Franco's regime, it was declared as gospel truth that Madrid and Old Castile were the spiritual and cultural heartland of Spain, and peripheral cities and cultures of the Iberian peninsula must bow to that truth. Barcelona, however--la gran encisera, "the great enchantress"--always saw things rather differently. The earliest area of Spain to be colonised by the Romans, the capital of Catalonia is fiercely independent, somehow Spanish and not-Spanish, and most mysteriously of all, has been at the forefront of modernity, especially modern art and architecture, ahead of any other European city you could name with the possible exception of Paris. It is this Barcelona that fascinates Robert Hughes most, and he in turn fascinates us with his enthusiasm and knowledge of the place. He thrillingly evokes the cosmopolitanism and openness of Barcelona--qualities, he says, that derive inevitably from its status as a great Mediterranean port. And he is brilliant on perhaps the most exciting modern architect of all, Antoni Gaudi, the creator of the (still unfinished) Church of La Sagrada Familia, now as much an icon of the city as the Opera House in Sydney or the Statue of Liberty in New York. -- Christopher Hart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Nobody has ever represented [Barcelona's] character more powerfully, or illustrated its claims to self-destiny more persuasively, than has Robert Hughes in this monumental work" (Jan Morris Los Angeles Times)
"Whether untangling the unlikely legends of Wilfred the Hairy or tangling with the likes of Antoni Gaudi, Hughes has shaped Catalan art, architecture and politics into the ultimate guidebooks" (David Newnham Guardian)
"A wonderful book, by far the best yet to have appeared in the current flood of books on Spain - and one that fills a genuine gap" (Martin Gayford Sunday Telegraph)
"Barcelona is unlikely to be rewarded with a better history than this. Robert Hughes is a master of the big canvas, scooping up the detail of social, economic, political and artistic life and producing images of captivating richness" (Sunday Times)
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Top Customer Reviews
There is no way I can possibly be objective about this book - in many ways, it was the inspiration for a ten-year journey that led to the publication of my own 'Going Native in Catalonia' and Robert Hughes' anarchic telling of the story of Barcelona and the Catalans still makes me chuckle with pleasure every time I pick it up again.
The book opens with Barcelona 1992, the Olympic City - Paradise Regained? But even in that first chapter Hughes shows his love and knowledge of The Great Enchantress and is already poking holes in the image of perfection that Barcelona loves to portray (and its eager visitors love to lap up).
He then takes us from the Romans through the dynasty of the Counts of Barcelona, the loss of autonomy to Castile, the rise of Catalan culture from the ashes and right up to the present day. He leads us on wild excursions, historical rambles and architectural visits always with that 'been there, done that' voice that makes him stand out as a true communicator not just 'another' travel writer. This book is absolutely bloomin' brilliant!
However, I have to admit that it's not for everyone. It's long and turgid at times and Robert Hughes tells the story that HE wants to tell. So if you're coming to Barcelona for a weekend break, I suggest you read something a little lighter and more superficial but if you want to understand why Barcelona is the most important city in Europe that's not a capital city, buy this book and spend a good two weeks reading before your visit. The time will be well-invested.
To finish this exuberant review, I'd like to send a personal message to the author - 'Thank you, Robert - if you ever fancy a beer and some tapas in one of the bars down Carrer de la Ciutat, search for me on the Internet and we've got a date.'
It is a little dense at first - and the names are hard to remember - but for an overview of Barcelona's significance you can't get better than Robert Hughes' direct and straight-forward prose style. You can hear the Aussie accent as you read - and it's all the better for that.
Worth every penny.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Another excellent book from Robert Hughes, with an insight into the subject not found elsewhere.Published 16 months ago by Justin Scott
Arrived promptly & well packaged; reasonable price. Had been looking for this book as fond of Hughes style - disappointed by publishing format of book. Read morePublished on 26 May 2011 by Langley Lass