Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A literary picture of Barcelona

Barcelona is a city that encompasses a real zest for life, relishes artistic beauty and lives through al fresco dining. It often tops the lists of the world’s best cities because of the high quality of life that it provides to the people who are lucky enough to call it home…or at least home for now.  

What better way to truly explore Barcelona than by immersing yourself in its rich culture.  From artists Antoni Gaudi and Pablo Picasso to writers Mercè Rodoreda and Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Barcelona is brimming over with creativity.

Image source: Creative Common/Wolfgang Staudt

Gaudi’s architecture and Picasso’s paintings at times overshadow the literature written by some of the most vivid thinkers the world has known. Barcelona, however, has offered itself to many literary masters as a muse to inspire some of the most beautifully written prose. The city has inspired tales of love, friendship, betrayal, rivalry, crime and war to name only a few. 

Many writers have managed to capture the essence of this multi-faceted city and by taking a journey through its literature, you can really enrich your understanding of it. Be prepared to fall in love, or fall in love all over again, with Barcelona after exploring the material that these writers have created. 


Bestsellers include Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind and Ildefonso Falcones’ Cathedral of the Sea. Both are undoubtedly fantastic reads; Zafón takes you on a rite of passage through post-war Barcelona, and Falcones brings you action from 14th Century Barcelona at the height of the inquisition.  

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind could be considered an obvious choice for our top read. However, the tale’s insatiable thirst for Barcelona is undeniable and the author paints a beautiful picture of Catalonia steeped with many different human layers that will allow expats in the 21st Century to love the past, present and future of this city. 

It is a story within a story as the protagonist, a young boy called Daniel Sempere, chooses a book by Julián Carax (pertinently entitled Shadow of the Wind) from the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He must protect the book as it emerges that a sinister character will stop at nothing to destroy every last remaining copy. The possession of this book leaves Daniel in grave danger and his quest to discover who Carax was and why he did not write anything else leaves him in even greater danger as he has caught the attention of the brutal Inspector Fumero.    

Spanish Civil War

Mercè Rodoreda’s masterpiece The Time of the Doves is set in Barcelona post, during and after the Spanish Civil War and is one of the most highly regarded novels to depict the struggles of a young woman in this era of Spanish history.  George Orwell’s Homage to Barcelona documents his own first-hand experience of the Spanish Civil War. He was eventually a lieutenant based in Catalonia and Aragon from 1936 to 1937 and his account brings a unique vibrancy to a revolutionary tale that could otherwise be forgotten by our 21st century society. 

Image source: Creative Common/Wolfgang Staudt
Literati hangout

If you are passionate about writing, or art, and want to mingle with the creative minds based in Barcelona, you should go to the district of Gràcia. Writers, publishers and agents alike can be found in the many bars, cafes and bookshops in this romantic area. You should head to Astrolabi and Heliogàbal if you truly want to be in the hub of it all. 

Any expat moving to Barcelona will soon learn that the city will help you to unleash creativity in everything you do. The inspiration from the city’s culture is impossible to ignore and you may find that the way in which you envision the balance between your work and life could dramatically change for the rest of your life.

Have you dipped your toe in literature from Barcelona? Or, are you a fanatic of writers from this diverse region of Spain? Share your thoughts with other expats here: https://expatexplorer.hsbc.com/hintsandtips/

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