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The City of Marvels Paperback – April 1, 1990

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671702343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671702342
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,185,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Barcelona, chief city of Catalonia (historically a hotbed of anarchist and separatist activity) plays the role of a magical, protean character in this sprightly novel, a bestseller in Spain. The action spans the years between Barcelona's two economically disastrous World's Fairs of 1888 and 1929. Young Onofre Bouvila ventures from his parents' provincial farm to work in the city, where he begins his political involvement by distributing revolutionary pamphlets on the fairgrounds. Aided by the giant Efren, he becomes a con-man who sells hair oil, serves underworld boss Don Humbert, arranges for rivals to be bumped off, and marries the Don's lovely daughter, Margarita. But Onofre, a driven tycoon who becomes an arms smuggler, cannot forget his first love, an adoring, wretchedly skinny anarchist named Delfina. Nor can he resolve his feelings for his fathercalled the americano since his return from a trip to Cuba with a white suit, a monkey and fraudulent schemes. Unfortunately, the characterization remains opaque, though the novel entertains and informs with its panorama of Catalan politics and social life, the advent of cinema and flying machines, and amusing cameos of Rasputin and Mata Hari.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A modern picaresque tale that traces the meteoric rise of unscrupulous Onofre Bouvila from two-bit charlatan to movie mogul, culminating in his "marvelous" demise, Mendoza's novel appears for the first time in a well-translated English version. This fanciful mesh of fantasy and history adroitly weaves its characters into the life of the titular city of Barcelona at the turn of the century between two world's fairs. Though recently published in Spain (1986), where it was a best seller, the text resorts to the traditional narrative techniques of the chronicle, allowing the straightforward development of events to overshadow the cardboard delineation of characters. Despite the lack of surprises, general readers should enjoy. Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC, Inc., Dublin, Ohio
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 12 customer reviews
Once Onofre views his objects of affection and obession, he still will always find himself wanting more.
Jamie C. Pillow
After following the development of Onofre and the city of Barcelon, the ending comes as both an interesting twist and a surprise to the reader.
Mendoza's personal experience of living in Barcelona helps to convey the unique perspective of the city's residents about such renovations.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Attor on December 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Eduardo Mendoza's award-winning international bestseller, The City of Marvels, is an extraordinary tale of a fabulous city on the sea. Originally published in Spanish in 1986, it was later translated into English by Bernard Molloy for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. in 1988. In this adventurous novel, the young protagonist, Onofre Bouvila, begins his lonely journey to Barcelona, a city with its own lifestyle, language and hierarchy. He goes to the city to find wealth. Throughout his life, Bouvila discovers how much corruption there is in Barcelona. He also meets people who help him fulfill his purpose in Barcelona.

The novel begins with Bouvila searching for a place to stay. As he wanders through the streets of Barcelona, he comes across Señor Braulio, a homeowner who rents out rooms. Bouvila decides to move into Braulio's boardinghouse. In order to pay his rent, Bouvila finds work distributing anarchist pamphlets, a job arranged by Delfina, Señor Braulio's daughter. Delfina is a frail and raggedy girl for whom Onofre develops an unhealthy obsession. Despite his attractions, love does not interfere with his main objective: To be an affluent and powerful man. Bouvila is sent to distribute the anarchist pamphlets at the 1888 World Fair construction site. By working at the World Fair, he is able to establish connections with people who later further his career. Initially, Bouvila is earning a very low pay by distributing the pamphlets. Later, he sells stolen merchandise from the world fair site and then joins a mob that virtually runs the city, and eventually becomes its leader. Through his innate sense of Catalan industrialism, manipulation and determination, he becomes a rich and important man who tricks and uses people.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Dumbleton on December 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Eduardo Mendoza's 1986 Spanish novel The City of Marvels is a wonderful work which takes place in Barcelona during the late 1888-1929. It was translated in 1988 by Bernard Molloy and published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers. It opens with the protagonist, Onofre Bouliva, living in a boarding house ran by Delfina and her father Senor Braulio. While there Delfina helps him acquire a job for the anarchists group being run by Paulo where he begins handing out flyers promoting the group. Through this job Onofre begins to put his foot in the door of Barcelona. Constantly changing jobs, Onofre begins to sell hair products at the World fair, soon he becomes and arms dealer and then works his way up in the mob and finally he ends up in the movie business and buys a mansion in La Bonanova. Despite all this acquired wealth, Onofre was not happy; he always wanted more. This leads to his great escape from Barcelona at the 1929 World's Fair.

Onofre's constant desire for more supports the story's theme of power, greed and money. He always wanted to acquire more, but was never satisfied with what he had. Onofre left his home for Barcelona in search of a job and more money. Then after that, with every job he had, he always tried to make as much profit as possible. Even though people wanted to kill him, he was always focused on money. Onofre believed that with more money came more power, and acquiring more money would mean he would have more class. As an outsider, Onofre wished to be accepted in the Barcelonan society and be a part of the inner circle of the city's nobility.

Along with Greed, another major theme in the story is the development of space. People, culture, social distinctions and reality describe historical facts while incorporating fictional characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sydney on November 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Eduardo Mendoza has certainly done it again. The City of Marvels is a colorful tale of Barcelona in the late 1800s and early 1900s that has captivated audiences from all around the world. Throughout the novel Mendoza unravels a mesmerizing story that touches on enticing themes including anarchism, political corruption, the influence of money, cynical manipulations of power, and of course, sexuality and romance. The constant references to governmental corruption and prostitution give the reader large insights as to the ways of the old city. The book follows Onofre Bouvila from the time he arrives in Barcelona as an adolescent through his development into the money-hungry entrepreneur that he becomes. Mendoza leads his readers into feeling sorry for this antihero with his emotional struggles over his failed father and his consistently bad relationships. Onofre discovers himself at the first of two world fairs in Spain, and after over 3 decades of achievements and let-downs the story winds to an end as the second world fair is coming to a start. In his quest to make money he falls into a long list of jobs including the distribution of anarchist pamphlets, smuggling arms during the war, and developing a silent movie industry that eventually fails.

The most interesting part of this novel is the parallel between Onofre's life and the development of the city of Barcelona at the turn of the 20th Century. As Onofre builds his fortune and reconstructs everything around him time and time again, Barcelona undergoes similar renovations and changes in the preparations for the World Fairs and the beautification of old structures. When Onofre grows and matures, the city expands and develops.
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