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Review: Roads To Santiago

Roads To Santiago by Cees Nooteboom My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Dutch author is, most certainly, an admirer of Spain. He writes passionately about his travels across the land, traversing history, culture, and the role of Spain in the modern world. The style is erratic and it takes a while to get used to the author’s jumpiness, but it all seems to weave together nicely. There are deep forays into the world of art and I found the detail on Velasquez most interesting and it is clear that Nooteboom holds a special place in his heart for the work of Zurbaran. There is a constant flicker of images of old rustic villages and a barren landscape as the author makes his undulating way in a series of neverending detours in his quest to reach Santiago de Compostela. I think one of the giveaways in the book is when our Dutch narrator reveals how he almost joined a monastery. He obviously has deep religious feelings and these manifest in his detailed depictions of the art and architecture of the religious buildings which seem to dominate the direction of his meanderings. The history of Spain can be detailed in the construction of these temples. From the deep antiquity of the Romans through to the Visigoths and Arabs and on into the post-reconquista emergence of a unified state under Ferdinand and Isabella and future Habsburg monarchs up to the tragedies of the Civil War and Francoist Spain and its post-Franco entrance into modern Europe. I think that the translator from Dutch has done a wonderful job and the book reads most freely. It has a deep elegant manner, is of the most floral and descriptive prose and it never fails to produce a deep impression on the imagination of the reader. This genuine work of literary art embeds the image of Spain on the mind and one can feel and breathe the deep-seated knowledge and embracing love that the author has for this mysterious land. View all my reviews

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Review: The Will to Survive. A History of Hungary

The Will to Survive. A History of Hungary by Bryan Cartledge My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a daunting book in terms of size yet at the conclusion of it, I feel its in depth detail and full historical coverage make it a definitive volume of those interested in the country of Hungary and its environs. I travelled through Hungary in 2005 and spent some tie in Budapest and was quite surprised by the capital’s affluent nature despite it being my first glimpse behind the Iron Curtain. The author was a British ambassador to Hungary in the early 1980s, at the dawn of the modern political era. If I had any criticism of this work it is that it sometimes gets a little overbearing politically with less emphasis on general history. I found the ancient history amazing and was fully intrigued by the Habsburg monarchy. The twentieth century brought a new angle on bot World Wars and the subsequent peaces. I was surprised at the impact Trianon has on Hungary and the key revolution in 1956 exposed some of the feelings of true life behind the Iron Curtain. I think that Hungary’s history as a central European nation has been troubled due to its geography yet the continuation of the Hungarian people and language demonstrates that this struggle has succeeded. I feel that Hungary invokes romantic notions in how it is generally perceived in the West. That is despite, allying itself with the losing side in both World Wars, its location on the Danube at where East meets West, means that it has a unique position in terms of world heritage. After reading this book I feel more enlightened about Eastern Europe and feel that I would like to further my study on the region by visiting it once more. View all my reviews

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