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The Factory of Light: Tales from My Andalucian Village Paperback – 26 Apr 2004
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A well-constructed narrative which builds to a page-turning climax (Anglo-Spanish Society Quarterly Review)
The Factory of Light is an intelligent, beguiling story, and Michael Jacobs writes with a sly humour and real affection and understanding for his chosen region that eclipses most other writers of the genre. (Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat)
This rusticana a la Espagnola is a heartwarming and informative narrative. It should be read by everyone thinking of buying a house in Spain (Independent)
Humorous, touching and dramatic, Factory of Light is a refreshing alternative to the current wave of 'moving to the Med' travelogues, from a skilled writer with a deep knowledge of and concern for, his subject (Paul Morrison, Wanderlust)
Jacobs is worth reading for his appetite for the wry, the ironic and the grotesque (Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times)
The particular strength of this eloquent, unhurried tale is its depiction of the author's friendship with El Sereno... Theirs is a winning Quixote-Panza double act (Miranda France, Daily Telegraph)
A welcome reminder that close encounters of the Mediterranean kind don't have to be all froth (Sunday Times)
He writes ... with insight, tenderness and wit (Sunday Times)
The descriptions of events and encounters burst with vividness and energy (Oxford Mail)
Shortlisted for the 2004 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award - the beguiling tale of a screen goddess, a writer and an ageing Romeo who transform the fortunes of a magical village in AndalusiaSee all Product description
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And within a short time, he does, this time renting for a much longer period a room incongruously above a disco which functioned, at maximum volume, into the early hours of the morning on weekend evenings. But Jacobs had always been one for bars and the nightlife, and so he simply joined in and made more friends there. He continues to respond to them, old and new, with as much empathy - also when he notes weaknesses or failures - as he did before, but in the account of his daily life the sense of discovery is no longer as strong, and it may not always be as interesting for the reader as it was for him. He researches the history of Frailes which once bade fair to become a spa, but is now run down, impoverished, and losing its younger generation to neighbouring towns. His standing in the community is strengthened by a beneficent “miracle” that has apparently been wrought by him.
There was more. Michael Jacobs had a group of artistic and intellectual friends in Granada. Singing the praises of Frailes to them one day, they decided to visit the village, in a group of course; and not only once: they would foregather - sixty of them on one occasion - for meals in the garden of the village patriarch, Jacobs’ tireless friend and guide to all things Frailesque, known as El Sereno; they became known as “the Frailes Group”. “Under Maiquel Jacqob” wote a local journalist, “Frailes is becoming a lively centre of intellectual gatherings”.
He returns for a third stay. Now he takes an active part in the agricultural work of the village. He overcomes his urban squeamishness when it comes to slaughtering pigs and the gory business of turning the carcases into sausages, black puddings etc. He helps, inexpertly, with the difficult task of harvesting olives and sees the process of making the olive oil for which the province of Jaen is famous and which is the mainstay of the Frailes economy.
The older Fraileros remembered with nostalgia a cinema in the village that had had to close in the early 1970s. In particular, they all remembered a film that was at that time considered extremely erotic and the famous star who had figured in it. The empty building, dusty and dilapidated though it now was, still retained its art deco interior. Jacobs conceived the idea of reopening it - for a one-off occasion! - to show this ancient film and getting the sexy star, a good thirty years older now but still a huge draw, to attend the occasion. The account of how this came to pass, against all the odds - and at its climax massively covered by the frenetic media which were so out of tune with the normal life of Frailes - takes up many nerve-racking and vivid pages.
After the departure of the media circus, “the unchanging rhythms of the seasons reasserted themselves”, but Frailes did not sink back into its previous obscurity: “rarely a week passed without some television reporter coming to film either El Sereno or me, or, preferably the two of us together. We had become a double act, like Laurel and Hardy.”
On his fourth visit to Frailes, Michael Jacobs bought a house in the village, which now became his principal home.
(Michael Jacobs died in 2014. To the end he kept a picture of the Santo Custodio in his wallet.)
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