Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm 3/4 of the way through my first book of 2010: Giles Tremlett´s Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through A Country's Hidden Past which I thought was going to be mostly about the Spanish Civil War and the discovery, sixty years later, of mass graves filled with victims of Franco's death squads and how this affected Spain's "pact of forgetting". However, there are also chapters on how tourism - the bikini in particular - helped bring democracy to the country, corruption and scandal within the Socialist Party in the 1980s, the art of flamenco, etc. The author covers lots of ground already covered in many other books. Fortunately, he does it well. This is a highly entertaining book, a real page-turner.

And I quote from chapter 5 "Anarchy, Order and a Real Pair of Balls": "Seeing the words that Spaniards have used to describe themselves in the past, it is surprising that corruption is not more widespread. They have a self-proclaimed reputation, after all, for being natural anarchists. 'Every Spaniard's ideal is to carry a statutory letter with a single provision, brief but imperious: "This Spaniard is entitled to do whatever he feels like doing," wrote Ángel Ganivet. In the mid-nineteenth century, the catholic, conservative thinker Donoso Cortés had claimed that 'the dominating fact of Spanish society is this corruption that is in the marrow of our bones... in the atmosphere that surrounds us and in the air that we breathe'. Ortega y Gasset said that 'el encanallamiento, the debasement, of the average man in our country makes Spain a nation which has lived for centuries with a dirty conscience'."

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