The Tomb in Seville: Crossing Spain on the Brink of Civil War

Overview

While the rumblings of oncoming war shook a divided Spain, Norman Lewis and his brother-in-law Eugene Corvaja traveled through the Spanish countryside to the family tomb in Seville. Nearly seventy years later, in prose that is witty, understated, and poignant, Lewis describes the duo's travels first to Madrid, then through the bloody insurrection of October '34, and finally via the length of Portugal to Seville. Once there, they find the Corvaja tomb, but it is nothing like they expected. In this, his last book ...

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The Tomb in Seville: Crossing Spain on the Brink of Civil War

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Overview

While the rumblings of oncoming war shook a divided Spain, Norman Lewis and his brother-in-law Eugene Corvaja traveled through the Spanish countryside to the family tomb in Seville. Nearly seventy years later, in prose that is witty, understated, and poignant, Lewis describes the duo's travels first to Madrid, then through the bloody insurrection of October '34, and finally via the length of Portugal to Seville. Once there, they find the Corvaja tomb, but it is nothing like they expected. In this, his last book before his death in 2003, Lewis conjures up the country he returned to time and again in his writing, and displays the spirit of pure fascination that has inspired generations of readers. He recalls covering a hundred miles on foot, sleeping in caves, dodging sniper fire, and attempting to dissuade the communist-leaning Eugene from joining the People's Army. Yet Lewis's sweetly infectious enthusiasm for the sights and sounds of a country holding on to its glorious past in the face of a violent future never wanes. For the avid and the new Norman Lewis reader alike, The Tomb in Seville is a vibrantly fresh tale of a historic time and place.

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Editorial Reviews

Dorothy Gallagher
Toward the end of Lewis's long and immensely productive life as a writer and traveler -- ''one of the best writers . . . of our century'' as Graham Greene called him -- his thoughts returned to Spain, and he reworked his first book into The Tomb in Seville before his death in 2003. There is a plot of sorts, but it hardly matters. What matters is the journey, and that Lewis saw everything: the landscape, the people, the poverty, the intimations of war to come, the medieval strangeness of Spain to modern European eyes. In a style that only seems artless, he tells an entranced and entrancing story, beautifully observed, of a young writer's meeting with the people and the country he loved at first sight.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Acclaimed travel writer Lewis (Naples '44; Golden Earth; etc.) died in 2003 at age 93; this is his final book. In it, he recounts traveling through Spain in 1934 with his brother-in-law Eugene Corvaja to find the Corvaja family tomb in Seville. Their plans for a straightforward north-to-south journey, beginning in San Sebasti n, are altered by uprisings foretelling the impending Spanish Civil War. Lewis and Corvaja's ever-changing travel plans lead them on a circuitous route-they wind up going through Portugal-and shape the episodic tone of this memoir, in which each town and encounter provides its own story. Lewis eschews delving into the complex politics of 1930s Spain to focus instead on the social ramifications of the country's political situation. While Corvaja yearns to join the battle for Spain's future, Lewis remains an outsider, with his sharp eye set firmly on observing Spain's people and places. Whether he's capturing the comedy of trying to find a suitable cafe in Madrid while a street fight rages, depicting the isolated wildlife of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains or commenting on the "cheap and cheerful" lives of the farmers' daughters he and Corvaja meet on a train, his well-crafted descriptions are honest and evocative. Lewis and Corvaja eventually find the tomb, but it's been destroyed, which is actually quite fitting, reminding readers that the journey is the story. (Mar. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this last book before his death in 2003, Lewis amply demonstrates why peers and contemporaries hailed him as one of the finest travel writers in English in the last century. In this story, Lewis and his brother-in-law Eugene visit Spain from England in order to travel to Seville to view the tomb of the Carvaljo family, Spanish ancestors of Lewis's father-in-law, Ernesto (a "Sicilian man of honor"), and report on its condition. It is, as were most of Lewis's 14 other nonfiction works, a travel story; in this case one by a 93-year-old writer recalling situations and events that occurred in 1934. Given that, the imagery from a country on the verge of civil war and of its own holocaust stands out as sharply as in a Robert Capa photograph. It's not just that the author's cogent observations are perfectly preserved, but also that he has so keen a sense of the dimensions of a culture that's deep enough to withstand the misery of senseless war heaped upon what was for many contemporary Spaniards the misery of everyday life. Eugene and Lewis literally stroll through a nascent revolution-scheduled trains are not running; buses pocked with bullet holes may or may not hold to their routes. The only way to cross the street in Madrid without immediately becoming a sniper's target, they quickly learn, is to walk like hordes of other pedestrians with arms fully extended into the air. A necessary 60-mile hike to Zaragoza to pick up ad hoc transport to Seville takes them through stark villages of cave dwellers, as well as mysteriously beautiful oak forests. But everywhere, from the bleakest villages to the grandest of ancient cities, there remains an overriding tradition of hospitality and theinterchange of philosophies over bread and wine. Revolution or not, the pair press on to view the tomb in Seville. Fluidity and economy of style, a wit that crackles as it whispers. Every reader should experience Lewis.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786716876
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 2/9/2006
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 150
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Norman Lewis was one of the greatest travel writers in the English language. He is the author of thirteen novels and fourteen works of nonfiction, including Naples ’44 (also published by Carroll & Graf). His other books include A Dragon Apparent; Golden Earth; and The Honoured Society, a nonfiction study of the Sicilian Mafia. Norman Lewis died in 2003 at age ninety-three.

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