Barcelona in Books

I don’t get to travel that often, so when I do, I really make the most of it. My favourite way to prepare is to read fiction set in the place I’m going to. I’d much rather walk in the footsteps of a fictional character I’ve grown to know and love, look around through their eyes and go where they’d go, than traipse the tourist trail with a dry old guide book.

Before I went to Barcelona, I did a bit of research and found some great novels set in Barcelona to give me a bit of flavour for the place. It turned my holiday into a totally magical experience. I did make sure I soaked up as much Gaudi as I could, I checked out galleries, and fully indulged my cable-car addiction, but I also made time to drift around the streets and places that I’d read about in the novels, and I found it to be a unique and exciting way to connect with the place. Here’s what I read:

Merce Rodoreda, ‘The Time of the Doves

the time of the doves merce rodoreda

The novel is set in the Spanish Civil War and is told by the main character Natalia. It is terribly sad, but beautifully written, and through Natalia’s own tale, evokes the experiences of many Barcelonans of the time.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon ‘The Shadow of the Wind

carlos ruiz zafon the shadow of the wind

I romped through this literary thriller – a book that starts off with a trip to a cemetery of forgotten books – what’s not to like? It does get a little fantastic plot-wise but it’s a quick entertaining read, and I found it brought the streets of Barcelona alive for me.

George Orwell ‘Homage to Catalonia’

Homage to catalonia George Orwell

Orwell‘s classic account of Barcelona and Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War.

Jimmy Burns: ‘Barca: A People’s Passion’

Barca, barcelona football,

Alas, I hadn’t yet discovered the meaning of life (football) when I visited Barcelona. If I go again I’ll definitely be taking a copy of this, and I couldn’t resist listing it here. Getting the chance to watch the gods of football playing at the Nou Camp – well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Here are the ones that got away:

Juan Goytisolo: ‘Marks of Identity

Manuel Vazquez Montalban: ‘The Angst-ridden Executive

Eduardo Mendoza: ‘The City of Marvels

Colm Toibin: ‘The South

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