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An Englishman in Madrid by Eduardo Mendoza

An Englishman in Madrid

by Eduardo Mendoza

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Spanish (19)  English (6)  French (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Readers keep asking why this book won a prestigious Spanish publishing award. It is an OK effort but really too goofy to take seriously.

You can read the online discussion for yourself, I am not going to rehash it here. Yes the book is interesting and yes it is goofy. How can the protagonist be such a combination of being deeply knowledgeable about art and painting (and one would think, therefore, the human condition that is expressed in art) while at the same time being so utterly naïve?

My answer to the logic of the award is that in his inexplicable disarray, our hero Anthony Whitelands reminded the judges of Don Quixote and they voted their Spanish hearts.

I received a review copy of "An Englishman in Madrid" by Eduardo Mendoza, translated by Nick Caistor through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Feb 7, 2016 |
I love a good historical mystery that really gives me new insights into the period in which it’s set. Eduardo Mendoza’s An Englishman in Madrid is just such a volume. Set on the cusp of the Spanish Civil War, An Englishman in Madrid follows the experiences of Anthony Whiltelands, a British art historian, who’s been sent to Madrid to value a nobleman’s collection of paintings—a collection the nobleman may have to liquidate quickly if the war’s onset forces him to flee the country. The collection is a disappointment, but then Whitelands discovers the nobleman own have a previously unknown Velázquez. The discovery could ignite Whiteland’s stagnant scholarly career—and give him a chance to outshine his main professional rival.

At the same time that Whitelands races to authenticate the painting, he also finds himself coming into contact with a variety of characters who will be involved in the Spanish Civil War. There’s the leader of Spain’s reactionary Falange movement; British diplomats and at least one spy; a mysterious Russian agent; Spain’s soon-to-be-deposed president; General Francisco Franco, who will become the leader of fascist Spain; and Spanish security forces. Mendoza’s novel caputres the chaos of the time, particularly the many motives—personal, altruistic, and mistaken—that drive pre-war Spanish politics.

This is a novel that’s doubly worth reading, both for its story line and for its context. The prose of Caistor’s translation is sleek, helping to propel the chaotic events of the novel forward. Mendoza writes with a mix of cynicism and insight that is both heart-breaking and, at moments, hilarious. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Sep 6, 2015 |
I bought this novel as a bit of a stab in the dark - I found myself with nothing else to read on a rainy day in Sheffield (Yes! It does rain in Sheffield!), and this was the only book that appealed from the rather meagre selection at W H Smith's on the Station.

At first I thought I was encountering that occasional serendipity we all occasionally experience when we pick up a book by chance and it turns out to be excellent. The first hundred pages or so were enthralling (they even made me forget the rain), but then the book seemed to run out of steam, and stumble into a quagmire.

Basically Anthony Whitelands is a widely renowned art expert, with a particular expertise in the works of Velasquez and his contemporaries. He is asked to visit a noble house in Madrid to inspect a selection of paintings and offer a valuation. It transpires that the owner, a Spanish aristocrat, is considering how he might manage to send portable wealth abroad with a view to getting his family out of Spain before the impending Civil War breaks out. Whitelands is not impressed with the three paintings that he is shown. Disappointed, the aristocrat shows him another work, which Whitelands is convinced is a Velasquez, though one for which there has been no mention in any of the historic records.

At this point the novel changes tack, with Whitelands being contacted by representatives of the British Embassy, officers of the Spanish Secret Services and members of the insurgent Falangists, all of whom suspect, but do not actually know, that Whitelands is involved in some conspiracy.

The context is very well drawn (at least, I think it is, though my knowledge of Spain in general and Miadrid in particular is conspicuous by its paucity), but the plot becomes unnecessarily complicated, with new twists added with a dazzling regularity while the small ration of plausibility is spread thinner and thinner to the point of evaporation.

A sort of thinking man's Dan Brown fueled by paella, but washed down with Watneys Red Barrel.

Close, but no cigarillo! ( )
2 vote Eyejaybee | Jun 1, 2014 |
Erityisen kiinnostava aikakauden kuvauksena, Espanjasta ennen sisällissotaa. ( )
  mielitekoja | Jan 23, 2014 |
Este es un libro divertido y lleno de accion en el que Eduardo Mendoza, retrata la Espana anterior a la guerra civil de una manera desenfadada. En la trama se mezclan personajes de ficcion e historicos y el relato se desarrolla siguiendo la visita de un profesor de arte ingles que se ve envuelto en tramas golpistas, una red de espionaje, el trafico ilegal de obras de arte e incluso tiene tiempo de enamorarse... Un libro facil de leer y muy entretenido. ( )
  alalba | Sep 18, 2011 |
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Rosa estuvo a mi lado y para ella es esta fábula
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Pertenece a la extraña condición humana que toda vida podía haber sido distinta de la que fue. (José Ortega y Gasset, Velázquez)
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Un ingls llamado Anthony Whitelands llega a bordo de un tren al Madrid convulso de la primavera de 1936. Deber autentificar un cuadro desconocido, perteneciente a un amigo de Jos Antonio Primo de Rivera, cuyo valor econmico puede resultar determinante para favorecer un cambio poltico crucial en la historia de Espaa. Turbulentos amores con mujeres de distintas clases sociales distraen al crtico de arte sin darle tiempo a calibrar cmo se van multiplicando sus perseguidores: policas, diplomticos, polticos y espas, en una atmsfera de conspiracin y de algarada.An Englishman named Anthony Whitelands by train in a convulsed Madrid in the Spring of 1936. He must authenticate an unknown painting which belongs to a friend of Jos Antonio Primo de Rivera. The value of this painting could be a determining factor in favor of crucial political change in the history of Spain. Turbulent love affairs with women of different social classes distract this art critic, not leaving him time to gauge how his pursuers multiply in number: police, diplomats, politicians and spies, all in an atmosphere of conspiracy and outcry.… (more)

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