by Miguel de Cervantes
Having tried to read this book several times, I was concerned when our book club picked it for one of our monthly meetings. Much to my surprise I loved the book, as did my fellow book club members. I believe it helped to be reading Edith Grossman's very readable translation, which brings Don Quixote to life on the page. Funny, magic, romantic and tragic, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, his squire, adventure through 16th century Spain. Please give this book a chance; you won't regret it.
"Grossman has given us an honest, robust and freshly revelatory Quixote for our times." – Publishers Weekly
"A major literary achievement." – Carlos Fuentes, New York Times Book Review
"Somewhere in La Mancha in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing. An occasional stew, beef more often than lamb, hash most nights, eggs and abstinence on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, sometimes squab as a treat on Sundays – these consumed three-fourths of his income. … Our gentleman was approximately fifty years old; his complexion was weathered, his flesh scrawny, his face gaunt, and he was a very early riser and a great lover of the hunt." – Don Quixote, Harper Perennial, 2005 edition.
by Leopoldo Alas
La Regenta could be called the Madame Bovary of Spanish fiction. Set in the 19th century, it depicts a bored upper-class lady in a small provincial town. As in Flaubert's novel, she finds herself lured by her passions into an adulterous destructive relationship. Witty, filled with great characters, and wonderful descriptions of the sights and sounds of Spain, this novel is considered one of the classics of Spanish literature. This fine translation is by John Rutherford.
"Outstandingly well translated." – John Bayley
"The city of heroes was having a nap. The south wind, warm and languid, was coaxing grey-white clouds through the sky and breaking them up as they drifted along. The streets of the city were silent. … Vetusta, that most noble and loyal city, the capital of the nation once long ago, was digesting its boiled bacon and its chick-pea stew, and relaxing as, half asleep, it listened to the familiar monotonous drone of the hour-bell high in the graceful tower of the Holy Cathedral Church." – La Regenta, Penguin Classics, 2005 edition.
Guernica: A Novel
by Dave Boling
Set during the Civil War in Spain, this is a first novel by Boling and a good one at that. Although at times a bit "contrived" the book reads well, and the characters are fascinating and well delineated. Even Picasso shows up! Guernica in the Basque region suffered greatly during the war and Boling gives us just enough background to widen our knowledge of this part of Spain. The author illuminates the history behind Picasso's well-known painting, Guernica.
"Enhanced by Boling's knowledge of Basque culture, this is a convincing fictionalization of an infamous act of war." – Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"Boling … paints a sprawling mural, a meditation on a family irrevocably disfigured by war." – The Seattle Times
"On a bench of land to the west, the symbolic oak of Guernica stands rigid and undisturbed. The residents tell and retell the stories of ancestors gathering beneath the oak tree since the Dark Ages to make laws or plan the defense of the land from invaders. Somehow, the rebels and Germans didn't damage the tree, though little else escaped their influence." – Guernica, Bloomsbury, 2009 edition.
South From Granada
by Gerald Brenan
Gerald Brenan, an English writer, lived in a remote village in Andalusia before the Civil War. This travel memoir, elegantly written, depicts the landscapes and people in the Sierra Nevada area of Spain. We hear about festivals, marriages, family rivalries and other details that combine to form a rich story. Still relevant to Spain's mountainous areas today.
"The best of Brenan's books: he has a true and proper knowledge of the culture he describes." – Cyril Connolly, The Sunday London Times
"A brilliant interpreter of Spain to the rest of the world." – The London Times
"Those who have been to Granada will know that immediately to the south of it there is a high range of mountains, the Sierra Nevada, which has snow on it all the year round. On the other side of these mountains, between them and the sea, lies a stretch of country, well watered and planted with villages, which is known as the Alpujarra. I had picked it out on the map as being likely to provide a good site for a house and so I prepared to go there. I bought one of those stiff, black-brimmed Sevillian hats, which I thought would make me less conspicuous, placed a few things in a rucksack and, as soon as the rain stopped, set off." – South From Granada, Penguin Classics, 2008 edition.
Platero and I
by Juan Ramón Jiménez
This seemingly simple book holds a special place in my heart. It is a sweet book, yet at the same time very profound. The author converses with his burro describing his village and the surroundings he loves. The author and the burro, such good friends, share the countryside together. Poignant. A Spanish classic. Although I consider this an adult book, if you are taking children to Spain, read this to them as you go.
"One of the great classics of modern Spanish literature. Sheer descriptive magic." – Time
"An exquisite book, rich, shimmering, truly incomparable." – The New Yorker
"The moon moves with us, large, round, pure. In the drowsy fields one can see, vaguely, some manner of black goats among the brambles. … Someone hides, silent, as we pass. … Over the fence, an immense almond tree, snowy white with blossoms and moonlight, its top clad with a white cloud, shadows a path shot through with March stars. … There is a pungent aroma of oranges. … 'Platero, it is so … cold!' … Platero, I do not know if because of his fear or mine, breaks into a trot, jumps into the steam, steps upon the moon and breaks it into pieces. It is as if a swarm of clear crystal roses entangled his trot, trying to hold him back." – Platero and I, Universe, 2000 edition.
Stone in a Landslide
by Maria Barbal
Maria Barbal is considered one of the most talented contemporary writers of Spain. This short fictional memoir, simply and clearly told, begins with a young woman who leaves her poor village in the Pyrenees to live and work for her aunt. She later looks back on her life with its many losses and tragedies. Sad, but beautifully written. A Catalan classic.
"A Pyrenean life told in a quietly effective voice." – The Independent
"A masterpiece of world literature and a shining example of the virtuosity of elegant and concise prose." – Lancashire Evening Post
"I feel like a stone after a landslide. If someone or something stirs it, I'll come tumbling down with the others. If nothing comes near, I'll be here still, for days and daysx…x." – Stone in a Landslide, Peirene, 2010 edition.