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Duende: A Journey In Search Of Flamenco Paperback – 1 Jan 2004
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"The autobiography-as-travelogue that is also a rite of passage is a form which worked brilliantly for Laurie Lee and Bruce Chatwin - both novelists as well as seekers after the truth-behind-the-truth. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new star of the genre: Jason Webster" (Daily Mail)
"His descriptions of troubled modern day Spain are mesmerising, but the greater curiosity is in seeing just how much trouble the confused innocent can create for himself before finding out whom he might really be" (Daily Express)
"Wonderfully told, with enough detail about flamenco to educate the curious, and enough drama and characters to fill a novel, Webster may not have turned out to be a guitar maestro, but his journey is recounted like a master" (Wanderlust)
"Duende is an intensely personal portrait of a country in the throes of modernisation, whose spirit still defies definition" (Observer)
"One of the best books ever written about Spain" (Literary Review)
Part travelogue, part picaresque adventures of a young man, DUENDE takes the reader to the emotional heart of Spain.See all Product description
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En route he indulges in a rather pathetic affair with an older bailaora, gets sucked into a world of cocaine snorting and autotheft, and is befriended by a mysterious Englishwoman whose almost total lack of relevance to the supposed flamenco theme at least lends some authenticity to the story: a good novel would never feature anyone so unconnected with the plot.
Given that Webster himself is in control of the account, it’s difficult to judge exactly how accomplished he becomes as a flamenco guitarist, but some of the narrative regarding the different palos (flamenco styles) is instructive and verifiable. It’s not on its own, however, a good way to go about learning about flamenco.
Something it possibly will do, though, is extend your knowledge of Spanish swearing: there’s an abundance of examples scattered through the book, which gave me something to say when I found the word “treaded” written instead of “trod” (page 300).
Although I found the opening few pages somehow unsatisfying – it’s definitely not unputdownable – I managed to get into it partly, I guess, by lowering my expectations, and partly because there is quite a good story, though little of it gives a typical view of the culture Webster set out to describe.
Given its history, and that of its principal exponents, the Spanish gitanos, flamenco has become notorious for its impenetrability. There is even debate – I was caught in the crossfire of one in a bar in Seville – about what actually counts as flamenco. The couple trading opinions over my head were discussing the merits in that respect of fandango. Any claim to have broken into the world deserves suspicion, and to his credit Webster seems to realise the extent of his own failure.
What is mysterious is his initial choice of venues: Alicante he admits himself is not a centre for flamenco; Madrid offers a range of “flamenco experiences”, but probably only insiders know which are the real thing. Granada looks a better choice, especially the Albaicín, but why not Seville or Cadiz, both of which have excellent reputations?
So, sad and imperfect, but some good bits in between.
This has certainly fuelled that passion further. Can't believe I have only just do,discovered Jason Webster's writing I will definitely be reading more by him...
never fall in lave with any of the characters.
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Once or twice I felt the author must have taken artistic licence as the story is so detached from my everyday travails.Read more