Spanish Recognitions: The Road from the Past

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"A book of discovery, in which the landscape of Spain, its history, and its people flow together, each explaining the other." Mary Lee Settle, at the age of eighty-two, set off alone to find the Spain she thought she knew from guidebooks, from friends, and even from her own earlier trip there. But, like Columbus on another voyage of discovery, she found something - many things - that she hadn't even known she was looking for.
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Overview

"A book of discovery, in which the landscape of Spain, its history, and its people flow together, each explaining the other." Mary Lee Settle, at the age of eighty-two, set off alone to find the Spain she thought she knew from guidebooks, from friends, and even from her own earlier trip there. But, like Columbus on another voyage of discovery, she found something - many things - that she hadn't even known she was looking for.
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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Settle takes us along as she digs into Spain's past. We are there when she is overwhelmed by the Alhambra's majesty, and when she finds herself hopelessly lost in Salamanca's winding streets. We are as amused as she is when she learns about the 12th-century Revolt of the Trout and as horrified when she describes the autos da fe of the Inquisition. Her writing draws readers in, making the history she describes consistently compelling. — Wayne Hoffman
Publishers Weekly
Traveling through Spain's central provinces from Castile to the southern coast in a "beautiful small rental car, a Real; stick shift, balance and weight perfect for speeding," novelist Settle (The Beulah Quintet; Blood Ties) makes a point of this being a solo trek ("To be alone by choice is one of the great luxuries of the world"). With this engaging, lucid recollection, personal, but not self-centered, she's the perfect guide for a vicarious journey through a land where "history intrudes everywhere." Footprints of Visigoths, Romans, Moors, Muslims and Falangists appear all along the path; Cervantes looms large. Settle encounters El Cid in Zamora, Unamuno in Salamanca and Lorca and St. John of the Cross in Granada. St. Teresa, who "wasn't afraid of God, the king, the papal nuncio who tried to stop her, or the devil himself," emerges in Avila, and in Tordesillas, Settle finds the queen whom history refers to as Juana la Loca de Amor, but whom Settle sees as "the victim of a hostile takeover." She sights the explorers (Cortes, Pizarro, de Soto, Balboa) in their Extremadura hometowns and recounts the Knights Templar's tale in Jerez de los Cabelleros. Settle, an "eighty-two-year-old grownup," delights in discovery, is curious about the old, possessing an intellectual-quest spirit and ageless wisdom. Clearly in love with the "people so beautiful," "the scene so handsome," Settle invites readers to follow in her footsteps and see out of her eyes. Map, 12 pages of illus. not seen by PW. (Feb.) Forecast: Readers of Settle's previous travel book, the well-received Turkish Reflections (1991), as well as fans of her novels, will enjoy this book. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
At age 82, National Book Award winner Settle (Blood Ties; Turkish Reflections) continues her accomplished writing career, here taking her readers to Spain. More than a travel narrative, this book uses historical vignettes coupled with personal observations to show us the heart of the country. Geography has certainly shaped Spain's history but not nearly as much as the unique confluence of Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism-still in evidence to varying degrees in present-day Spain. Settle shows us these influences while vividly capturing the essence of cities like Barcelona, Toledo, Avila, and Granada (a place so beautiful that Mexican poet Francisco de Asis de Icaza wrote "there is nothing in life so cruel as to be blind in Granada"). Spain is a European destination sadly undervisited by Americans, ranking seventh in terms of annual visitors from the United States. Were this title required reading, that situation would certainly change. Recommended for public libraries and for academic libraries with travel collections.-Travis McDade, Ohio State Univ., Columbus Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A graceful memoir of solo travel in post-Franco Spain, bookending the author's equally graceful Turkish Reflections (1991). "To be alone by choice is one of the great luxuries of the world," writes National Book Award-winning author Settle. "I went to Spain alone. I wanted to discover it, not have it pointed out to me by friends, guidebooks, experts, or that most powerful of modern Big Brothers, controlled tourism." Armed with copies of Cervantes and Garcia Lorca, as well as memories of the Spanish Civil War (as a teenager, she writes, she "fell in love with the Spain of that war"), she wanders the lonely mountain country of Extremadura and Andalusia, drops in on tertulias ("a daily meeting of minds, whether horse race or politics, fishing or philosophy or the telefono arabe, the spreading of rumor") that come straight from the pages of Perez-Reverte, and seeks the ever-elusive essential quality of Spanishness, which she finally decides has something to do with defiance-not rebellion or resistance, necessarily, but the habit of fearlessly facing tyrants, "whether the tyrants be kings or windmills." The notion of a stately Southern gentlewoman getting on in years and traveling alone promises moments fraught with peril, but Settle finds herself welcome just about everywhere, more so than on earlier journeys. (A quarter of a century ago, she recalls, a restaurateur put an American flag on her table lest, dining alone, she be confused for a hooker). For the most part, she finds in Spain a young, vibrant country that has thrown off the burdens of the fascist era and that has yet to be Disneyfied (though Palos's replica of Columbus's three ships comes close)-a place, in other words, that seemsvery attractive indeed, and that benefits by having so sympathetic and understanding a guide. Travel-writing in the tradition of Jan Morris and Paul Theroux, recounting sojourns that are never entirely comfortable, never really dangerous, but full of surprises and pleasures.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393020274
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/12/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Lee Settle won the National Book Award for her novel Blood Ties and was the founder of the PEN/Faulkner Prize. She died in 2005.

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Table of Contents

A Traveler Between 9
Madrid 17
Castile 33
Avila 53
Tordesillas 75
In the Meseta 95
Zamora 100
Salamanca 123
Extremadura 142
Guadalupe 156
Shadows 173
Merida 190
Islam 213
Caliphate 221
The End of the Reconquista 247
Granada 268
Duende 284
Holiday 311
Tartessos 325
Palos de la Frontera 342
Endnote 355
Recommended Books 357
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