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Barcelona Paperback – March 9, 1993

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 9, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679743839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679743835
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hughes's historical-cultural treatise on the Catalonian capital sparkles on the topic of architecture. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-- The throbbing beat of flamenco guitars and the clicking of castanets resound as readers peruse the pages of this epic history. Founded as an encampment by Roman invaders around 210 B.C. , Barcelona passed through centuries of strife until it reached its ``Golden Age'' between the years 1850 and 1925; it is on this era that Hughes focuses. Aficianados of his descriptive, colorful prose style from such bestsellers as The Fatal Shore (Random, 1988) and The Shock of the New (McGraw, 1981) will not be disappointed with this work, and students of architecture will be especially pleased with the author's detailed comparisons of the city's varied structural styles. A must book for students of modern Spanish or European history and culture.
- 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.

More About the Author

Robert Hughes was born in Australia in 1938 and has lived in Europe and the United States since 1964. Since 1970 he has worked in New York as an art critic for Time Magazine. He has twice received the Franklin Jeweer Mather Award for Distinguished Criticism from the College Art Association of America.

Customer Reviews

I learned much but at times I was thinking "too much".
Y. Zohar
I don't know what I love more, Barcelona with its Picasso Museum and Gaudi's artful arhitecture or the gorgeous lyrical writing style of Robert Hughes.
Very interesting book for anyone interested in Barcelona.
Cathleen H. Tuley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By DvoraT on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read Hughes' Barcelona before I went to Barcelona for the first time, and it made all the difference in the world. I arrived not as a stranger, but as a student of Catalan culture and history. The book gave me the background to have an informed perspective on what I was seeing. It may be long, but it has tons of information. My only complaint is that Hughes assumes the reader has a knowledge of history that I, for one, don't have. So there were things I didn't understand.
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.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By C. B Collins Jr. on September 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
I visited Barcelona in 1982 and then again, 20 years later, in 2002. I am certainly glad I read Robert Hughes' "Barcelona" before going the second time since it certainly gave me a new perspective on the city, its history, its art, and its architecture.

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.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ratón de Biblioteca on May 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
Robert Hughes' "Barcelona" is the book that I wish that I had before I went to live in and around Barcelona, and since it came along after that time, reading it made me want to go back to that city again and again. By all means, if you plan to visit Barcelona or any other city in Catalunya, dedicate the time necessary to absorb this book before you go. It is not light reading, nor is it a "guidebook." The format doesn't really lend itself to a brief and casual visit -- but the market is full of those alternatives. Instead, you gain a more fulfilling context and deeper historical perspective. "Barcelona" is a bit like the famous Canaletas fountain near the head of the Ramblas. Once you have drunk from it, as they say, you are thereafter certain to return to the city.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on January 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
While "Barcelona" was intended as a social and artistic history, not as a guidebook, it is sufficiently detailed as to have gotten a friend of mine in trouble there.

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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Xavier Romero Frias on June 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am glad Robert Hughes wrote this book. We, Barcelonites tend to take our city for granted and have lost the ability to take in its historical depth.

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.
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