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Voices of the Old Sea Paperback – January 3, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Lewis does not really decry the changes that slowly begin transforming his particular pocket of rural Spain. Indeed, he rarely casts judgments, other than occasional aesthetic ones. He is somewhat self-effacing. Rather than imposing himself on his hosts and environs, he blends in, and as a result otherwise insular and superstitious locals begin to open up to him and allow him to observe and participate in activities from which outsiders usually are excluded.
But the value and appeal of VOICES OF THE OLD SEA is not so much in its subject as in the telling. Lewis was a superb writer, with a gentle sense of humor and irony. The publisher lauds Lewis as "the father of modern travel writing". If only that were truer. If only more modern travel writers had Lewis's skill and his modesty.
Lewis painstakingly, over three seasonal domiciles, earned acceptance from the fisher-folk, carefully not to transgress local taboo - no leather on the boats - he gained a grudging place, and was reluctantly given recognition, as an almost honorary local, even to his own "beautifully wrecked" chair outside the local bar. He sought a `sense of place' just at the time that it was torn from the villagers, and their age-old dependence on their local shamans and natural leaders.
The story of that journey to acceptance and the all too rapid evaporation of the mores of such simple rustic values by the corruptions of development and tourism - headed mainly by a former bandit of this arid region with its villages of cat lovers contesting with the village of dog owners - is a fascinating read. As Cyril Connolly wrote ... "Lewis is able to write about the back of a bus and make it interesting"
Here Lewis had a far more significant subject - a community in its still hopeful death throes in the path of `progress'.
Instead, it's simply a brilliant piece of writing; witty, smart, fun. You go with Lewis and enjoy with him a strange, dark sense of humor that takes pleasure in the most wonderful things, and a world which no longer exists.
It's also a book that is something of a secret joy; you can't really describe to others what is so great about it. I've known only a few other Lewis fans, and we all came to him in the same way: we found an old copy of a book of his somewhere in a free bin or a stack being thrown away. Tattered cover with a page or two missing, we read the first one and then quickly got online to find everything by him we could.
I've since given away multiple copies of this book, always with the same line: "Just read it." To say, "it has this great scene about a cat town and a dog town" or "there is a stuffed dugong in the bar" doesn't give the same effect as describing a scene from a great mystery or action novel.
Instead, you start at the beginning, hesitantly, and by page three relish each sentence. When you reach the end, you are sad, and wish it were longer. There are very, VERY few books that I wish were longer. This is one.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not quite as convincing as other works but interesting for those of us who have witnessed the destruction of the Spanish coastal villages.Published 9 months ago by Geoffrey K Ward
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Norman Lewis is a fine writer, not well known in the US. Read morePublished on February 26, 2014 by Pete
Voices of the Old Sea by Norman Lewis is an account of his time in village of Farol on the Costa Brava in Spain during the 1950s. Read morePublished on August 10, 2013 by Joseph the evilcyclist
I bought my first Norman Lewis book as a sale item on a rack (Tomb in Seville). I have now read 4 of his globetrotting books and have enjoyed every one of them. Read morePublished on January 10, 2013 by Buckeye Guy
Although "Naples, 44" is often cited as Norman Lewis' best work (and is well worth reading), "Voices of the Old Sea" is saturated with all the best attributes of Lewis' writing,... Read morePublished on October 2, 2010 by HeyNonny
This is truly great travel writing. Prior to the 1950s, Lewis visited the coast of Catalonia several times to get away from England and to experience more of the country he loved. Read morePublished on July 2, 2010 by NoVAReader
Of course this is a wonderful book, easily gotten through, but whence the idea this is travel writing? Read morePublished on June 25, 2009 by David Savageau
Literate, traveller, teacher, observer, the mold of this type of travelling and beautiful prose will not be seen again, please appreciate his genius and take heartPublished on February 19, 2006 by Dr.Anonymous