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As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee Paperback – 26 Jun 2014
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"Paul Murphy has a long and deep personal connection with Spain which gives his reflections a good deal of authority. His writing style is sensitive and full of pleasing images and unlike many such books, he 'inhabits' his subject." Philip Marsden, author of 'The Bronski House; The Levelling Sea.' // "Paul Murphy's book is a wonderfully readable narrative and a highly original approach to the 'footsteps' genre. It works beautifully - " - Valerie Grove, author of 'Laurie Lee: The Well-Loved Stranger' (Re-issued in May 2014 as 'The Lives and Loves of Laurie Lee)'.
About the Author
Paul Murphy is a writer with a special interest in Spain, its culture and people. He has lived, studied and worked in Spain and lived through seminal events such as the death of Franco in 1975 and an attempted coup in 1981, orchestrated in part by his landlord at the time, a Lieutenant General in the Spanish army. In 2014 Paul published his first book As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee. It is the first of a trilogy of books about Spain and Writers. Paul has a BA Honours in Spanish Studies and in November 2012 was awarded an MA (Distinction) in Professional Writing from University College Falmouth. Paul studied with the Faber Academy Creative Writing School. Paul speaks Spanish fluently. He spent two years as a marketing advisor to Ty Newydd: Wales National Writers' Centre. September 2012 saw the publication of 26 Treasures, commissioned by the V&A museum. Paul contributed along with writers such as Alexander McCall Smith and Andrew Motion. The Anthology won the Literature Award in The British Book Design and Production Awards 2013. Paul's writing has appeared in The Guardian. He has spoken at the British Library about Spain in the 1930s. He has recently written a profile of the writer Malcolm Bradbury as part of Unesco 2013 City of Literature in partnership with the University of East Anglia Creative Writing School. He writes regularly for Travel and Lifestyle magazines.
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I particularly liked the aspects of Spanish life - the religious customs, snippets of language, the food – and the search for 'duende' - the soul of Spain. The romance of the landscape is tempered by aspects of modern Spain with rising unemployment, and the possibility of breaking the pact of silence around Franco's rule. The book sometimes disappears down a rabbit hole of detail, but it meanders back, like the author's walk itself, and the book is all the richer for it.
"I do not want to be that man, the solitary man halfway up the hill never destined to reach the top"
Unlike Lee, Murphy already knows Spain well before his trip begins, is fluent in Spanish, and has a number of friends he can visit along the way. He carries with him a symbolic seashell, as did pilgrims to Santiago de Compostella (he is a lapsed Catholic) to signify his philosophical pilgrimage. His knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and its injustices and barbarity incense him.
He follows Lee's route and principles as far as possible, staying in low budget rooms and keeping off the modern tourist track. He shares his reflections along the way, not only on Spain and Lee, but on how his own life has taken shape.
Murphy is a thoughtful, compassionate and honest writer, much more self-searching and inward-looking than Lee (no doubt partly because he is 30+ years old than Lee at the time of his journey). He is at once diffident and open about his feelings - an engaging combination.
Despite my only experience of Spain outside of books being a city break in Barcelona, I was as engaged with Murphy's descriptions as I was with Lee's. Inevitably they're not quite as poetic, but Murphy is a precise and lyrical writer who chooses his words and phrases them very carefully without his writing ever seeming contrived. Compiling such a detailed and wide-ranging account of his trip, complete with flashbacks and cross-references to other times in his own life and Lee's, must have been a real labour of love, and this book is a huge achievement.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in Laurie Lee and/or Spain, or looking for a constructive approach to moving on after a relationship or career breakdown, whether in middle age, like Murphy's, or at any other time in their life, even youth, as in Lee's case, before moving on to what Murphy charmingly describes as Spain's equivalent to an Indian summer - literal translation: "Little Summer of the Quince", which he's also adopted as the title of his blog.
To read a delightful postcript to his book, visit his blog and read the entry for 2 March 2015. I think the post it links to, should be included in future editions of this book, to encourage others on a similar quest.
It has made me want to visit parts of Spain that I do not know at the moment, although I doubt if I will do as much foot slogging
as the author! This first book holds promise for the future.
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