Tuesday, 24 March 2009


I am re-reading "South from Granada." It is partly as a result of my first enjoying it, about 50 years ago, that we live in an out-of-the-way part of Spain now.
The big pic is Gerald Brenan, about 1920, I would say.
The queer-looking bod on the far left is Lytton Strachey. More of him later.
Having lived in a Spanish village for two years now, my perspective is changed. The book is the same but has a quite different meaning for me.
Remarkable, both the similarities and the differences in Brenan´s life and times and ours.
He has a chapter called The Village Calendar telling how the saint´s days and religious festivals regulate, not only the social life, but the working schedule. Still happens here. You don´t plant alfalfa until after Saint Eulalia´s day, or whatever.
Existence in Andalucia back then was literally Medieval - no electricity, no plumbing, no roads. Now we live in unimaginable luxury - with central heating and computers and a car to take us to Sahagun, six miles away. Brenan, who was an heroic walker, who have done that on foot, there and back, twice a day without giving it a thought. He tells how he once walked 57 miles from Yegen to Almeria in two days. Over mountains.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the book is the account of Strachey´s visit in 1920. As there were no roads to Yegen, mules were needed. Strachey, was effete, delicate, neurotic. Brenan says of him, "He seemed almost indecently lacking in ordinaryness."
That seems to me as great a compliment as one might wish to be paid.
The visit was a bit like trying to Climb Everest with Truman Capote or Yves Saint Laurent. A disaster of course, but funny.
Two friends of mine are coming over from England in a day or so.
Neither resembles Strachey, though they are not all that ordinary, either.


Kathy said...

Hi Paddy...

getting ready for a May visit and wonder what books you'd like delivered to your lair,

K. Gower

claire bangasser said...

Thank you for writing about the book 'South of Granada.' I remember your having mentioned it but had not acted on the reference. Now I can and will.