The Bible in Spain Paperback – 8 May 2016
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Introduced by a friend to the writings of George Borrow many years ago, I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. Having devoured his books, Lavengro and Romany Rye, I wanted to read The Bible in Spain. Based on Borrow’s adventurous travels around the peninsula in the early nineteenth century while distributing and selling copies of The New Testament in Spanish, it is a marvelous evocation of the haunting variety of the Spanish countryside, the Spanish people, the customs and eccentricities from region to region, and a sharp review of Spanish history to that point. In the picaresque tradition of Quixote, and with changing Sanchos for companions, Borrow’s idealistic quest to enlighten the people lead him into extraordinary situations with Gypsies, Galicians and Andalusians, Castilians and Catalans and the odd displaced Italian or Greek. In his mind, the people have been enslaved and kept ignorant by the Catholic clergy and Pope. The idea of the British Bible Society, who hired Borrow to take the New Testament to Spain and arrange for its printing and distribution, was to make directly available to the people a clear translation of Christ’s teachings, minus the lengthy exegeses of clerical scholars and priests, thus freeing people to approach God on their own.
George Borrow is a traveler, keen observer and true eccentric in the best British tradition. His knowledge of and sensitivity to languages, including Romany, and his strong intelligence and powers of imagination and empathy enable him to interact intensely with the people he meets. His intrepid approach lands him in many amazing situations, often hilarious, sometimes dangerous, always interesting. His powers of description are extraordinary: the reader experiences the events as if present, hearing the dialects and accents, smelling the stables and the food and vegetation, participating in the difficult and beautiful excursions into some of the wildest areas of Spain.
The reader also learns a great deal about the political and social situation in Spain at this time: the Carlist wars, the poverty, and the strong, enduring spirit of the common people. As a stylist, Borrows is sharp, clear and direct. He is a rare combination of the romantic and the realist. This book is worth reading for pleasure as well as information, and is wonderful background for anyone interested in Spain.