A timely reminder of just how good journalistic writing can be Giles Tremlett is a contributing editor to the Guardian and Madrid correspondent for the Economist.Like a taste of what he does On a trip to Spain a few years ago, I needed to make a change to my train ticket from Madrid to Malaga The ticket agent, a man in his 50s or 60s, barely listened to my request, looked at his watch, and without ever looking up growled, No Just the one word, without explanation and never looked at me Sort of expecting that, I looked to see if another agent could help me This time, the agent was a vibrant 20 ish girl, who took my question and made the change in about 45 seconds, smiling and chatting with me the whole time This is the two sides of Spain, and the age difference between my two ticket agents illustrates what Ghosts of Spain is about in one experience But this book is than that It s also a fascinating look at the various regions of Spain, offering a glimpse into what constitutes the modern Spaniard A Basque is not a Catalan is not a Sevillano is not a Madridista Ghosts of Spain tries to explain why in an entertaining and educational way. Books about Spain 2 Ghosts of Spain Travels through Spain and its Silent Past by Giles Tremlett 2006 This is the second of several inter related reviews for the books listed below 1 The New Spaniards by John Hooper, 2nd edition, 2006.2 Ghosts of Spain Travels through Spain and its Silent Past by Giles Tremlett, 2006.3 The Ornament of the World How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal, 2002.4 Spain in Mind an Anthology edited and with an introduction by Alice Leccese Powers, 2007.5 Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, 1938.6 South from Granada by Gerald Brenan, 1957.7 Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart, 1999.The introduction to my review of the first book on this list has some remarks which explain my interest in Spain I won t repeat them here Giles Tremlett is the Spanish correspondent for The Guardian of London When Ghosts of Spain was published, late in 2006, he had been living in Spain for over 10 years, first in Barcelona, then in Madrid, where he is still stationed The tone of his book is entirely different from John Hooper s The New Spaniards, though both are excellent in different ways and complement each other nicely Hooper s tone is detached throughout though his commentary is always smart and to the point, he maintains a certain distance It is clear that his book was written by someone who is very familiar with Spain, but who no longer lives there this may have been less evident in the first edition, which was written after he had just completed an 8 year assignment there The reader learns very little about Hooper, other than his obvious expertise about Spain Tremlett, in contrast, takes a much personal approach repeatedly drawing on his own particular experience to illustrate a general point, grounding his analysis in the quotidian details of ordinary life As a result, there is an immediacy to Tremlett s writing that is missing from Hooper s book Some readers might find Tremlett s willingness to place himself in the foreground a little offputting it didn t bother me, as I found him generally engaging, smart, with the knack of a good journalist for asking interesting questions.Hooper takes a very systematic approach to a book that is obviously intended as a comprehensive treatment, with separate, clearly delineated sections transition to democracy, private life, the monarchy, regional autonomy, social issues, culture and the media I doubt that Tremlett was interested in writing a comprehensive account of contemporary Spain his book is structured like a collection of essays on different aspects of Spanish life Though both books appear to have come out in 2006, Tremlett s appears far up to date, reflecting a journalist s focus on topics of immediate public interest Of course, as his book s title indicates, understanding current events often requires an examination of past history, and this is nowhere true than in Spain, where the ghosts of the Civil War have yet to be laid to rest The specific trigger for a reexamination of past events was the exhumation of bodies for reburial from first a handful, later scores, of mass graves dating from the Spanish Civil War The vast majority were bodies of Republicans killed or executed by Franco s forces many had disappeared with little or no information about the circumstances of their death, and had been buried in unmarked, communal graves It took almost 30 years after Franco s death, but suddenly, in the middle of the last decade, old wounds were reopened and old hostilities resurfaced as relatives of the dead began to demand exhumation, proper burial, and some measure of accountability The question of the graves, and coming to term with the past, received a major increase in traction when the right wing government of Jose Maria Aznar lost to Zapatero s socialist party in the general election of 2004 it was still a hot topic in 2009 It provided the impetus for the opening three essays in Tremlett s book Secretos a Voces Open Secrets , Looking for the Generalisimo, and Amnesty Amnesia The Pact of Forgetting The number of books about the Spanish Civil War now exceeds 2000, a number that gives me a major headache Tremlett s material is nonetheless interesting, because he is specifically focused on how it still affects life in Spain seventy years later 100 pages examining the legacy of civil war, in Spain or anywhere else, isn t exactly a walk in the park, though Tremlett is clear and engaging Fortunately, each of the remaining chapters is largely self contained, so they can be read in any order Later chapters are generally given over to cheerful topics, specifically How the Bikini Saved Spain Benidorm and the rise of tourism Anarchy, Order and a Real Pair of Balls the importance of enchufe, corruption and scandal The Mean Streets of Flamenco Clubs and Curas Sex Prostitution neither legal nor illegal Decline of the influence of the church Men and Children First Role of the family 11 M Moros y Cristianos terrorist attacks of March 11th, 2004 and the aftermath In the Shadow of the Serpent and the Axe ETA and the Basques The Madness of Verdaguer those crazy Catalans Coffins, Celts and Clothes Galicia Moderns and Ruins the frenetic pace of change Tremlett and Hooper are obviously covering some of the same ground Both are worth reading What I particularly liked about Tremlett s book is the way all of his writing is grounded in the vivid details of everyday life He is much better at capturing how it feels to live in Spain The cacophony of noise in Madrid, the necessity for having and using connections enchufe to get anything done that pervades all aspects of Spanish life, first hand encounters with the health and educational systems through the birth and education of his child, a visit to the municipal jail in Seville conjugal visits , a brothel in Almeria the mosaic of Spanish life that Tremlett constructs is detailed, colorful and vibrant Cumulatively his delightful collection of essays do manage to capture both the charm and frustration of Spanish life I highly recommend Ghosts of Spain. I admittedly haven t finished this book When I first started it, I was very impressed with the author s understanding of Spanish history in particular, the continuing trauma of the Spanish Civil War I enthusiastically read the book up until about Chapter 6, when I became aware of the fact that the author s observations were dissolving into gross generalizations and blatant hyperbole which isn t to say that there isn t truth there But the blanket characterizations of the Spanish people began to chafe me as a reader and student professor of Spanish literature and culture, because if there is only one thing you learn when studying Spain, it is that the country is incredibly diverse and that generalizations never get you very far when attempting to understand La s Espa a s Unfortunate, it was, that the author failed to convince me, because a lot of the time, he does have very insightful things to say about Spain and its people I guess journalism i.e sensationalism got the best of him. I liked parts of this book than others, but overall it was an interesting look at a society that has gone from semi fascist dictatorship to liberal democracy in just a few years Partly, this is down to the leadership of Franco s chosen heir, King Juan Carlos, who threw his authority behind Spain s new democracy and undercut rightwing attempts to overthrow the government Also, the transition was made easier perhaps possible by a widespread practice of letting the past remain in the past Many of the political class who ushered in Spain s democratic system also had been loyal servants of Generalissimo Franco Giles Tremlett does a decent job of detailing the complications and contradictions of modern Spain He is especially good at illustrating how, 70 years later, the civil war remains the elephant in the room no one comfortably talks about it, but it profoundly affects political attitudes He also examines the ethnic nationalisms that have bedeviled the state, from the violence of Basque separatism to the assertive cultural boosterism of the Catalans and the quasi Celtic Galicians who celebrate their links to wider Iberian culture He looks at the Spanish rejection of puritanical moralism, despite the influence of the Church the way Spain became obsessed with anything modern the way that Spanish children tend to be incredibly spoiled but how the same children grow into improbably polite teenagers I found most of this to be interesting, although Tremlett s style can be a bit dry and understated, perhaps a little too anglosajon Sometimes, I was tempted to skip to the next section I did skip most of the chapter on flamenco That was followed by a chapter on the open Spanish attitude toward sex, which perked everything up. If, like me, the conundrums of modern spain by turn frustrate and delight you, then you must read this book Why are the spanish so noisy Why do they chose to live on top of each other in high rise blocks depsite boundless empty spaces surrounding their overcrowded cities Why are spainsh kids so spoilt How can a country wth so much history be rushing headlong into the future I read it in 2 sittings, I ve lived in Spain for 2 years and laughed out loud at the familiar situations described, and winced at the descriptions of what happened during the civil war and it s aftermath Read some Hemmingway and then have a go at this, both written with incredible affection for their subject matter. Popular E Book, Ghosts Of Spain Travels Through Spain And Its Secret Past By Giles Tremlett This Is Very Good And Becomes The Main Topic To Read, The Readers Are Very Takjup And Always Take Inspiration From The Contents Of The Book Ghosts Of Spain Travels Through Spain And Its Secret Past, Essay By Giles Tremlett Is Now On Our Website And You Can Download It By Register What Are You Waiting For Please Read And Make A Refission For You Tremlett is a journalist who lives in Spain That is a good thing He is in touch with real people and this gives his writing an immediacy and directness that goes beyond the common judgemental Briton abroad He also has some great chapter titles, such as How the bikini saved Spain.The premise of the book is that there is a story to be told around the secret histories of people who have simply refused to talk about their experiences under Franco I know someone whose uncle was denounced then taken out and shot because a neighbour wanted his bicycle My partner, Carmen, has what the Spanish call sensaci n walking past the police station It is understandable men wearing sunglasses and Doc Martens and carrying pistols give me the creeps as well.On the down side, I found myself getting bored with the book about half way through Journalism doesn t sustain itself for a long read and I found myself drifting off in pursuit of proper history books Good for a bus ride though. An impulse buy in the FNAC in Barcelona, galloped through in a couple of days, this was a good book for me to read at this point Every time I go to Spain I am intrigued and curious about its recent past This book, by the Madrid correspondent of the Guardian, gives a journalistic overview of a vast range of topics If you already knew a lot about Spain, you d probably find it irritatingly superficial But when you don t, it s interesting and diverting, opening up all sorts of avenues for further exploration or reflection, and providing some background to help you when reading Spanish newspapers.Some of the digressions are pretty odd and sound like recycled newspaper articles what on earth is the piece about Spanish funeral parlours doing in a chapter ostensibly about women s rights Why is his piece about brothels so trivial and superficial and the copy editing, as so often nowadays, leaves a lot to be desired But all in all, it s a good introduction to lots of topics, and I really enjoyed reading it. 10th book for 2016.Read this in preparation for an upcoming trip to Spain Each chapter in the book covers a different aspect of Spanish culture, starting with the recent re examination by Spaniards of the 1000s killed after Franco came to power, to later chapters dealing with the royal family, sex and feminism, parenthood, the Basques, ETA, the Madrid bombing etc The book covers similar territory to The New Spaniards , but I found the writing much engaging It is written by a British journalist, who has lived for many years in Spain and gives a half insider half outsider perspective on the country The book, written in 2005, is now getting a little dated, but still worth a read for those who want an insight into contemporary Spanish society.
Giles Tremlett is the Guardian s Madrid correspondent He has lived in, and written about, Spain for the past twenty years.
- 468 pages
- Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Secret Past
- Giles Tremlett
- 02 April 2017 Giles Tremlett