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Barcelona Paperback – March 9, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
- Richard Lisker, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I liked that Hughes sometimes talked about the big things -- big events, important people, and he sometimes talked about the little things that make a place distinctive. His love of the place came through to me, and I fell in love with it too.
The history of the Catalunya area is fascinating, an area that predates the Roman Empire. Two Roman Emperors came from Barcelona, Trajan and his nephew Hadrian. Hughes helps us understand the unique development of the Catalan language, culture, history which is frequently at odds with Madrid and Spain's central government.
Hughes does an excellent job of mapping the development of city with changes in politics and the coming of the industrial revolution. At one point, Barcelona was filled with sweat shops, offering long 12 hour days, very low wages, unhealthy nasty work conditions, deprivation of exercise and light, and explotative child labor. As I walked the city of Barceona, I imagined the struggling families trying to survive under these conditions in times past.
Even though the full 574 pages are engaging in this long book, the chapters on Gaudi are the strongest, most enjoyable, and most insightful. If pressed for time before taking a tripto Spain, I would strongly recommend reading the sections on Gaudi before seeing his actual works which are spread out all over the city of Barcelona.
The concept that was fascinating to me was Hughes' explanation that Gaudi's work was in fact very conservative rather than radical. His work is based on a return to the natural object, the shell,the wing, the tail, the spine, the leaf, the root.Read more ›
Few stones are left unturned. One is an exploration of Catalan nativity scenes. These include, typically, a figure of a squatting peasant defecating, symbolic of the fertility of the soil. Characteristically, Hughes knows of a museum of these figures, in the upper story of an obscure building on a byway.
A friend of mine was traveling to Barcelona on a business trip, so I asked her to pick up one of these peasants for my own Christmas display. Her Catalan hosts were extremely displeased to learn that she knew about this part of their history.
Catalans, famous heretics, have always been known for going their own way, and as -- originally -- an art historian and critic, Hughes revels in the idiosyncratic art and especially architecture of Barcelona.
Probably the only Catalan architect many Americans could name is Gaudi, but there were many like him. `Modernism' in art had a different meaning in Barcelona than it has elsewhere.
Hughes writes, wistfully, of the Catalan tradition of hand craftsmanship that allowed the Gaudis to have their fancies turned into three-dimensional reality. All gone under the press of industrialization.
But there is much more, including Spain's vicious politics.
Unless specially interested in Barcelona or Catalonia, most readers probably would shy away and doubt whether they really want to know 500 pages worth about Barcelona. Once started, though, they are likely to become enmeshed in what Hughes calls the "immense, often irrational ambitions" of the city.
Once taken up, this book is hard to put down.
Now, when Barcelona is changing rapidly and is spilling over the former sleepy towns and small industrial settlements that are now its suburbs, Hughes book is a comprehensive and easy-to-read source of information about our ancient city, the city that is somehow still living under all the modern development driven by nothing-short-of-ridiculous real estate prices.
One can see that Hughes has written this book with the utmost care. There are surprisingly few errors. The only one worth mentioning is that Hughes mistakenly translates the nickname of the legendary Catalan ruler, Guifré el Pelós, as "Guifré the Hairy", when it should have been "the Fuzzy". In the Catalan language "pelós" refears to short and fuzzy hair, which our first independent ruler is supposed to have had instead of a full beard. A peach, for example is "pelós". If Count Guifré would have been indeed hairy, his nickname would have been "Guifré el Pelut".
Thus, except for this point (and the erroneous conclusions Robert Hughes derives from it in a paragraph at the end of chapter 2, part 5), the book "Barcelona" makes excellent reading.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing story about Barcelona and its treasures and history. This is a real keeper!Published 5 months ago by Janice
Every word Robert Hughes wrote should be studied and cherished!
The best art critic of our times.
Read this after a week in Barcelona and it brought the city to life so many new ways. It was like reliving the vacation through history.Published 16 months ago by Van Dorn
I am a big fan of Barcelona. It is the ultimate walking city with so many sights that are a feast for the eye. I am also a big fan of Gaudi. Read morePublished 21 months ago by RBH
This book might better be titled "Thinking about Gaudi in Barcelona". If the reader is interested in Gaudi, this book is likely to be of great interest. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Marco Buendia
Very good book written with tremendous insight although it could have used better editing to cut down on the verbiage. I appreciate so much of the shared info though. Read morePublished 24 months ago by L. J. Lovell