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Barcelona the Great Enchantress by Robert…
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Barcelona the Great Enchantress

by Robert Hughes

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Barcelona the great enchantress is often described as a condensed version of Barcelona, also by Robert Hughes, whereas it would probably be better described as a more intimate, personal description, highlighting the personal interest of its author. At various moments, Hughes describes his personal relation to the city of Barcelona, as relationship of more than 40 years of attraction. Hence, Barcelona the great enchantress.

In this short work, Hughes manages to describe all that is important to know about Barcelona, as if delving into the essence of this magnificent city. The focus is on architecture, as it enables the author to draw an uninterrupted line from the Roman origins, the Middle Ages up to the Modern period, exemplified by the work by Antoni Gaudi.

The history of Catalonia, and Barcelona, is firmly rooted in the Gothic. Hughes describes which features of Gothic architecture in Barcelona are unique, and describes the gothic sites which form the heart of Catalan identity namely the Council of Hundred (Conseil de Cent and the Llotja, the earliest business exchange in Barcelona. While the Cathedral in Barcelona is admired for its endearing garden and the custom of holding geese in the cloister, Hughes writes that the Santa Maria del Mar, in all its austerity, is his favourite Gothic church, in Barcelona, not far from the Picasso museum.

For all its brevity, Barcelona the great enchantress describes all major sights in the city, the fresh market, the Boqueria on the Ramblas, not far from the Opera and the Placa Real. Gaudi is described as one of the main proponents of the Modernista period, and the expansion of Barcelona beyond its old city perimeter into the development of the Eixempla.

As one would read a beloved novel more than once, thus, one can return to Barcelona, by reading different books about the city. Barcelona the great enchantress should definitely not be omitted. ( )
2 vote edwinbcn | Feb 14, 2015 |
The beauty of the whole series of books with the collective title of "National Geographic Directions" is that they are short little gems that give the reader a quick overview of the highlights of a place or a city. They are designed to provide some insight about the culture and history of place and some education about what is there for the tourist to see while not overwhelming the reader with a tome of a thousand pages. This is the second book in this series that I have read and they take me away without making me study. Perhaps they are culture light, but they are also enjoyable. This volume succeeds admirably in reaching its audience and fulfilling the goal of the series. Well written, by a noteworthy author who has a very good resume of work that concentrates on the fields of history and art, the text does not overwhelm the reader and clearly makes the case for what is noteworthy in the history and development of the city. While the author is not an art critic he provides insight about what sights should be seen and why they are admirable or outstanding examples of art and architecture. While not a definitive guide book it is well worth reading if planning a trip to this noteworthy city. And it is just the right length for reading on the plane trip over to the city. ( )
1 vote benitastrnad | Oct 6, 2012 |
Barcelona Redux- a more personal and abbreviated version of his big book. ( )
  Niecierpek | Jun 3, 2012 |
Re-read 23 jan 2008. Anyone who loves barcelona would love this book. Not too long, a wonderful evocation. ( )
  saliero | Feb 13, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 079226794X, Hardcover)

Robert Hughes has been going to Barcelona regularly since the 1960s and was married in its Gothic city hall last year. Although in his new book Hughes is compelling and engaging in describing Barcelona's remarkable culture and history, his first subject is his 40-year love affair with the city. Thus it is a much more personal book than his earlier Barcelona. Since publication of that book in 1992, Barcelona has become one of the most vibrant and popular cities in Europe; Hughes describes the pre- and post-Olympics reconstruction that sparked the tremendous revival.Hughes begins the book with the decision to marry in Barcelona, "Where to get hitched? It ought not to be in Manhattan, where I lived. Neither Doris nor I is a particularly social animal. Neither of us wanted a fearsomely expensive wedding, and in my post-divorce financial blues almost anything from a New York caterer beyond a sausage on a stick and a can of beer seemed extravaganto?=.But there was a solution. It was Barcelona. Doris didn't have strong feelings about Barcelona-not yet-but I most emphatically did. I had been going there at intervals, to work and to disport myself, for more than 30 years. I had written a biography of the city, some ten years before: not a travel guide nor really a formal history, but something like an attempt to evoke the genius loci of this great queen city of Catalunya-and to tell the story of its development through its formidably rich deposit of buildings and artworks." Hughes goes on to describe the wedding, "Not only in Barcelona, but in the Town Hallo?=and by Joan, in his capacity as alcalde [mayor]. And not only by him and in the adjutament, but in its most splendid and history-ladenceremonial room, the Salo de Cent," and the party that followed in an ancient farmhouse. "I thought about a lot of things during that party, though with increasing muzziness as the evening lengthened. Mainly about Doris, about happiness, and about the very circuitous route which had led both of us to Barcelona. When I first spent a mildly riotous and sentimental evening at Xavier's [farmhouse], it was easier to imagine being dead than being over 60, and I had no more idea of Barcelona than I did of Atlantis. But if my grasp of Barcelona 40 years ago was lame and slight, so was that of most Europeans and Americans. Not just slight-embarrassingly so. The 1500 years of the city's existence had produced only five names that came readily to mind. There was Gaudi, of course, and the century's greatest cellist, Pablo Casals. There were the painters Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso." Thus begins Hughes's lively and engrossing account of the history, the art, and especially the architecture of "La gran encisera," the name Catalonia's great 19th-century poet, Maragall, gave to his native city-"the great enchantress." He tells how at the end of the 14th century-when Madrid was hardly more than a cluster of huts-Barcelona commanded a trading empire as wide as the Mediterranean. Barcelona was always what a recent mayor called "the north of the south," the part of Spain closest in contact with Europe, technologically advanced, proactive in trade, passionately democratic. Its wealth made it one of the great Gothic cities, filled with architectural treasures of the 13th-15th centuries. Its language, Catalan, was the medium of an enormously vital literature. Crushed and colonized by theBourbons in Madrid in the 19th century, Barcelona nevertheless entered a period of prodigious industrial and architectural growth (rebuilt by, among others, the genius Gaudi). Repressed by Franco, who hated the Catalans, it has blossomed anew since 1975 and especially in the last decade.At the end of the book Hughes and his wife return to Barcelona for a one-person exhibit of her watercolors. "Once again I was off to my favorite city in Europe, or the world. For the twentieth time? The thirtieth? Long ago, I lost count. You are lucky if not too late in life, you discover a second city other than your place of birth which becomes a true home towno?=Some forty years ago I had that marvelous stroke of luck: Barcelona."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:16 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Beginning with a vivid description of his wedding in the splendid medieval ceremonial chamber in Barcelona's city hall, Hughes launches into a lively account of the history, art, and architecture of the storied city. He tells of architectural treasures abounding in 14th-century Barcelona, establishing it as one of Europe's great Gothic cities, while Madrid was hardly more than a cluster of huts. The city spawned such great artists as Antoni Gaudi, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Casals. Hughes's deep knowledge of the city is evident--but it's his personal reflections of what Barcelona, its people, and its storied history and culture have meant to him over the decades that sets Barcelona the Great Enchantress apart from all others' books.… (more)

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