- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books (February 21, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156011581
- ISBN-13: 978-0156011587
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Roads to Santiago Paperback – March 13, 2000
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"Nooteboom plunges fervently into the fabric of Spain itself."-San Francisco Chronicle
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Instead, the book is, as indicated by the subtitle, a pilgrimage through Spain, with many diversions and musings. The "route" crisscrosses and meanders all across the country, slipping once into Portugal and even taking a brief hop to the Canary Islands. I doubt very much that the book is based on any one trip through Spain; rather it almost certainly is the result of several trips, one or more of which, based on internal evidence, occurred in the mid-1980's. Nooteboom tends much more to the byways and backwaters of Spain than he does to the heavily travelled and touristed areas (indeed, there is no mention of the Mediterranean coastal areas or of Barcelona). And, as a pilgrimage, the book is more historic and humanitarian in nature than religious, although Nooteboom is quite sensitive and attuned to the spiritual dimension of the places he visits.
Here is how Nooteboom introduces the reader to his subject: "Spain is brutish, anarchic, egocentric, cruel. Spain is prepared to face disaster on a whim, she is chaotic, dreamy, irrational. Spain conquered the world and then did not know what to do with it, she harks back to her Medieval, Arab, Jewish and Christian past and sits there impassively like a continent that is appended to Europe and yet is not Europe * * *." Nonetheless, Nooteboom clearly loves the land.
Nooteboom scatters throughout the book germane historical discussions, so that by book's end one cannot help having learned, or been reminded of, a fair amount of Spanish history. He also includes discussions of some of Spain's greatest painters and writers, including insightful chapters on Velásquez, Zurbarán, and Cervantes (among other things, he visited the cave where Don Quixote was born - i.e., the cave where Cervantes was imprisoned when he supposedly wrote the beginning chapters of the first great novel). He is especially fascinated by, and knowledgeable about, Romanesque architecture, and time and again he goes out of his way to visit some remote, and often locked-up, 800- or 900-year-old Romanesque church.
As a bonus, the book contains over sixty black-and-white photographs (most taken by Nooteboom's wife), which are well-coordinated with the text. The book also includes a map of the Iberian peninsula that would have been more useful had it contained more of the places mentioned in the text.
ROADS TO SANTIAGO is literary travel writing near its best. It is NOT, however, a travelogue or travel guide, although anyone contemplating an extended stay in Spain or a leisurely journey through the country could profit from it. Nor is it for the impatient. Nooteboom is inclined to philosophical or historical musings, and he is prone to taking off on some rather Borgesian flights of fancy. A few of his fanciful conceits were perplexing or silly (like Borges), and on occasion I found the book verbose. But on the whole ROADS TO SANTIAGO is a very informative and charming pilgrimage through Spain, on both the spatial and temporal dimensions.