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South From Granada (Penguin Travel Library) Paperback – 30 Jul 1992
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Gerald Brenan is generally regarded as the greatest of English writers about Spain. "South from Granada" describes the essence of a remote rural area before the Civil War with vivid sympathy. Here, brought back to life, are the festivals and folk-lore of the Sierra Nevada, the rivalries, romances and courtship rituals, the village customs, superstitions and characters. Equally compelling are chapters on Granada in the twenties, food and the Phoenicians, the cheap brothels and archaeological remains of Almeria, the stark but haunting mountain scenery and even a visit from Virginia Woolf. The result was acclaimed on publication as a masterpiece; it remains a classic, richly evocative account of a lost way of life.
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Written in a direct, lucid and personable style (even to the extent that when he is about to set out a description of the country he suggests to the reader that `those who do not like geography can skip a few pages'), the book covers the history, geology, society, sartorial etiquette - in fact every aspect of living there after WW1. It's a travelogue, autobiography and guidebook all rolled into one.
It's the perfect counterpoint to Chris Stewart's series of books documenting his life there today.
As you read about the remoteness, conditions and welfare of the people in the villages back in the twenties, it's hard to imagine the speed at which the area must have subsequently changed as a result of the impact of the road and transport infrastructure, tourism, the EU, and even the internet that Chris Stewart now enjoys on his isolated farm.
Take a trip back with Brenan, and immerse yourself in Andalusia of old.
You do pick up the fact that Brenan is very well read and has a sharp yet forgiving mind. His insight into his host country and its people is fascinating and has warmed my appreciation of the region more and rekindled my desire to explore the area (despite the inevitable disappointment of being 70 years too late!).
If you like Chris Stewart's style then I think you will like this book as I believe it has influenced Chris Stewart's engaging and self deprecating style. And, should he read this review; Chris you flatter Gerald Brenan in your imitating his style, be it conscious of otherwise.
I will now invest in a copy of The Face of Spain - another Brenan book.
Well written throughout by someone who has a clear talent for correct usage of the English language, which always helps a book’s content to flow more easily and enjoyably into the brain.
War. Bloomsbury Set connections enhance his Spanish existence, with visits from Virginia Wolfe etc. With living on a tight budget, he has little alternative other than to live 'as the locals', giving snap-shots of a Spain, long gone, with ancient customs, folklore and living with the seasonsas done by many generations. A must read.
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