What to read before making a trip to Catalunya, Spain—the region that includes Barcelona.
When I begin planning to visit a new destination, my thoughts turn first to literature. Oh, I always skim a guidebook or two, and I do the now obligatory stroll through TripAdvisor and Google’s offerings, but I go places to try to understand them. I want to get a sense of the gestalt of the community.
Who are these people? How has the local culture evolved? Why does a visit here offer up its particular sounds, tastes, and experiences?
For a bookworm like me, the answers—or at least, the first teasing tastes of truth—come most readily via literature. Whether the perspective of a book is that of an insider or a sojourner in a foreign land, the contours of the place begin to take shape as I delve into its stories.
What I read before visiting Barcelona
Black Bread by Emili Teixidor
Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas R. Hicks
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (skimmed)
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti
Major Themes: Spanish Civil War and man’s relationship with food
I began my exploration of Catalan culture with one of the few novels I could find translated from that language: the award winning Black Bread. Here is a great work of literature, evocatively written, even in translation. It was a lovely read, and I enjoyed it immensely, but I do love a heavy novel bursting with symbolism, deeper meaning, and complex themes. I.e., this isn’t a beach read.
And here is some of what I noticed about the intersection of Spain and Travel: so very many people seem to think only of the hedonistic pleasures of warm sand and tapas when they contemplate a visit to the region. My visits have all been in late fall or winter, and my interests tend toward museums and history, so take my reckoning with that grain of salt. Continue reading