The reasons why people buy a house in Spain are varied. Many people would admit that the weather was a significant draw here. However, culture, food, pace of life, fiestas, a rich history are all reasons given for making this financial investment.
But how much do you really know about the country you have invested in? Even if you live in Spain, you might only see a fraction of its true colours. The urbanisations here can sometimes be populated with very few Spanish people and even then they might be on holiday themselves.
The way we interpret what we see is also different. We might visit the local butchers and read into the higgledy piggledy way in which people stand around the shop that there is no queue. This is our own expectation setting our understanding of Spanish practice. If we take off our own cultural glasses we would know that a queue there is, based on identifying who is the person before you.
So, without living in a country for a decade and being totally immersed in it, how can we get some insight into what makes Spain and its people tick? Reading books about Spain can help. I suggest that there are three types of books you might consider:
- non-fiction books that tell you about the practicalities of living here
- fiction books or ‘travel’ books where individuals write about their own experiences
- fiction books written in Spanish and translated into your own language
In this blog post I want to consider this last group of books. Of course, it is best if you can read them in Spanish, however, if you can’t, hopefully you will be able to find some classics that have been translated into your own language.
The advantages of reading some of these is that you will get a real insight not only into how Spain is and was, but what it feels/ felt like to live here as a Spaniard. Sometimes you may forget that you are reading a text set in another country at all. Then you are struck by the similarity of the human experience wherever you happen to settle.
Differences too can be startling. Reading about Spain during the civil war and its aftermath and you are struck by the fear and repression that were part of every day life. You are also struck by people’s resilience to it and their ability, in the harshest of times, to offer support to one another.
So, if you do want to read some Spanish authors who are translated into English, for example, where do you start? In our Ábaco newsletters we have been recommending some books and, have had some books recommended to us. Some may not be your cup of tea and it is only through trial and error that you will find the Spanish authors that you enjoy reading.
Some of these books could not be described as enjoyable at all. Books based on the events of the Spanish civil war are harrowing to say the least and many of the stories from earlier periods in Spanish history certainly make you aware of how much we take for granted now.
However, what they all do is throw insight into living in Spain, the troubles the country has come through and perhaps why things are as they are now.
These titles are for starters: ‘Cathedral of the Sea’ (Ildelfonso Falcones), ‘While the women are sleeping’ (Javier Marías) and 'The Shadow of the Wind’ (Carlos Ruiz Zafón).
You might also browse the titles in http://books4spain.com/. This website focuses on books set in Spain and about Spain. It includes reviews and might kick start you on a chain of reading that helps you understand this varied and complicated country.