Errant in Iberia: Journeys through a new life in Spain

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You are seldom half way in Spain. It is either fearfully hot or frightfully cold. You are either a good man or a bad one, either very rich or very poor, either a faithful church-goer or an out-and-out disbeliever. Regarding Spaniards themselves, Morris speaks of the diversity of the regions or Kingdoms of Spain and the strong feeling of patriotism they have for their territory.

Written in , the book captures what it meant to be Spanish during the Franco era but it also goes on to say how much Spain has changed since then. More tourism, more motorways, small villages lost as people flocked to the cities. But the feeling of being Spanish hasn't changed. This book is for those who enjoy the romanticism of Spain and the allure of its history, conflict and passion.

You can't avoid it in Spain. Any tapas bar you find yourself in will either have the television on in the background with a replay of an old Classico the famous dual between the two largest biggest and most famous team in Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona or a group of people arguing about the current state of play in La Liga , the Spanish top tier football league.

It's the nation against the state, freedom fighters vs Franco's fascists. It's the best two teams on the planet going face to face and toe to toe. It's more than a game. It's a war. Whilst this is mainly directed at football fans this book has an interesting mix of football history and Spanish history. It's fascinating how the two intertwine to explain more than just the football rivalries but where they stem from and why at 17 minutes and 14 seconds into each Barcelona game the fans begin to chant.

This is not just excitement for the flair on the pitch, it's recognition of the loss of Catalan independence in , a topic that is more alive today than ever and provides a nice segue way into the next book Raphael Minder is a Swiss journalist working as the New York Times correspondent for Spain and Portugal since covering issues including the financial crisis and the territorial conflict over Catalonia.

In his book, Minder dives into Catalonia's history from and gradually brings the reader back to the present day to provide a comprehensive understanding of where Catalonia's deep rooted sense of identity is derived from. According to rock musician Frank Zappa, the answer was it has to have a beer and an airline!

However, international law experts identify four main characteristics. A people, a territory, a government and the ability to conduct relations with other states on a sovereign basis.

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Minder covers many of these themes and more in his book. Whilst the violent clashes between protestors and the Civil Guard following the October referendum subsided, the underlying issues became more complicated than ever following the temporary reassertion of control over the autonomy by the central government. With ongoing uncertainty in Catalonia, one thing is certain. Living in Spain, you will be questioned about this topic from friends and family back home.

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  • Books Set In Spain.

This book will enable you to fend off those questions and also, perhaps, determine where you own opinion lies, which may already have been influenced simply by what part of this peninsular you have settled. Right or wrong? In or out? More questions are sure to arise in your mind, but you will find some answers here and that's a start.

I know what you're thinking. A book about Spain, written by a Frenchman?

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Well I will come to that. But first consider this. This is another element of Spanish culture and history that you simply cannot escape from, be it photos on Facebook of some friend of a friend who has decided to walk it, with a big smile as they set off with their brand new camping gear piled high on their back. Or a day trip to a nearby town and coming across a simple scallop shell on the ground with an arrow.

Or driving along a road and passing what appears to be someone in fancy dress going to a Lord of the Rings themed party with a cape and a stick.

Meaning of "errant" in the English dictionary

Whilst clearly a significant undertaking for anybody to embark upon, what struck me most about Rufin's account was how mundane much of the route is. Needless to say there it requires a lot of walking! A chance to escape modern life, clear your mind and meet interesting people. Due to the lack of any single route, the route you choose can be whatever you make it, but from the tale in this book there were very long stints along unremarkable roads.

This is perhaps unavoidable. Along an eight hundred kilometre trek I am fairly certain that I would reach a point where the quick route along the main road vs the slower scenic route would win out. While Rufin walked there, this is not the only option and many also cycle. Each year more and more people take up the challenge and in over three hundred thousand people completed it. If you decide you want to give it a go then this book is a must.

Or if you prefer, like me, you can also discover the route from the comfort of you favourite armchair. This book combines the romanticism of meeting interesting people, breathtaking views of sunsets, self-fulfilment and reminding yourself what stillness sounds like, with the reality of long slogs along black tarmac with nothing but your thoughts to keep you company. Insightful, thought-provoking and inspiring. If you have read these already, then fear not. There is more where they came from.

The MadRead shelves are stacked high with more fascinating reads about Spain. Here are just a few more to satisfy your curiosity….. Let's not also forget the most loved of all things Spanish….. I did say this article was about essential reading and it doesn't get more essential than Don Quixote. Written by Miguel Cervantes and first published in the Spanish Golden Age of flourishing art and literature this is regarded as the world's first modern novel and one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written.

It has been translated into languages and the Cervantes Institute says it is the most translated book after the Bible. Furthermore, this book has not been consigned to history but is more prevalent in today's society than ever. Spanish children across the country know this story inside out, much more so than an English primary school child can relay any story by Shakespeare.

They learn it at school, perform it in plays and read it at home.

Errant in Iberia – A New Life In Spain – Notes from Spain: By Ben Curtis

The noble knight errant and his famous adventures of bravery and courage alongside his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth century Spain are legendary. There are many translations into English and while the interpretation from old Spanish into modern English makes the language at times a little tricky, the story is easy to follow and provides entertainment, laugh out loud moments and evokes empathy for the protagonist. What's more, the story of Don Quixote is visible all around us.

Cervantes Week takes place around the writer's baptism date on 9 October and plays host to a number of events, lectures, theatrical performances, concerts, gastronomic events and markets. You can even follow in the footsteps of Don Quixote's route around Spain and joust with the windmills if it pleases you. Spain is littered with statues of Cervantes and his famous characters. It doesn't even stop there. At every location referenced in this book, they have erected or show proud Cervantine references from as far away as Panama and San Francisco.

If you have read it or if this seems like an obvious choice, then please accept my humble apologies.

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  6. If you haven't, pick up a copy now because …. Any article without this book as the number one book of fiction to read when living in Spain would be a crime against literature that would prompt Don Quixote to take up his sword and fight to the death to restore honour. As he grows up, he finds people becoming interested in his chosen book, leading Daniel to search for the truth about the life and death of Julian Carax.

    Review of the Madrid Confessions – from Ben Curtis at Notes from Spain

    The uncertainty, fear and oppression that are brought to life through the characters. This is one of my favourite fictional books set in Spain. Once I got to grips with the parallel stories of past, present and the book within the book, I was completely hooked on finding out how each storyline progressed and seeing how they weaved together. Once you get hooked on the first, you will be sure to want to read the rest. Winter in Madrid is set during the Spanish civil war and is the tale of three English school friends who all find themselves in Spain during this horrific period of the country's history.

    This book is packed full of sub-plots with romance, friendship, spying, surviving and suffering that really gives the reader a feel for how it would have been like to live in the Spanish capital during those times. The descriptions in this book are vivid and immerse you in the moment, feeling the cold and the uncertainty around you.