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Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving

Tales of the Alhambra (1832)

by Washington Irving

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Irving's Works (book 15)

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English (19)  Spanish (5)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Travelogue by Washington Irving, writing in the early 19th century, illustrated with current photos.
  Mapguy314 | Jun 22, 2019 |
Leather bound from the Library of Lawrence and Ruth Whitcomb
  cng12345 | Jul 1, 2017 |
  beatriza | Dec 10, 2016 |
Interesting tales. ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
This was the book that cemented the Alhambra's romantic reputation in the minds of the Anglophone reading public. Based on Irving's three-month stay in the palace in 1829, Tales of the Alhambra is presented as a series of traveloguish essays and historical sketches, although they really have more to do with his grand ideas about lost Moorish glories than any realities of medieval Andalusia. Irving finds it impossible to

contemplate this once favourite abode of Oriental manners without feeling the early associations of Arabian romance, and almost expecting to see the white arm of some mysterious princess beckoning from the balcony or some dark eye sparkling through the lattice. The abode of beauty is here, as if it had been inhabited but yesterday…

Crucial to this ‘Moslem elysium’ is the fact that it's in ruins (otherwise, presumably, he'd have been writing about contemporary Islamic cities). The crumbling stonework and chipped stucco allow Irving to view the Alhambra as a potent symbol of ‘that mutability which is the irrevocable lot of man and all his works’.

Such is the Alhambra—a Moslem pile in the midst of a Christian land, an Oriental palace amidst the Gothic edifices of the West, an elegant memento of a brave, intelligent, and graceful people who conquered, ruled and passed away.

The stories Irving tells are a mixture of traveller's anecdotes about the Spaniards he encountered during his stay at the Alhambra, and legends about the palace's original Moorish inhabitants. Robert Irwin, in The Alhambra, suspects that many of the former were fabricated in the service of Irving's grandstanding, but the latter are quite interesting if you like fairy-stories and folklore as a genre. Most of them involve djinns, spectral warriors, sequestered princesses and that sort of thing, and in these crypto-mythical tales Irving's rather over-egged prose style is shown to its best effect.

If an imagined and mostly fictional Moorish past is one subject of the book, ‘present-day’ Spain, as the site of this glorious history, is a close second. Thanks to its lost Muslim overlords, Spanish culture and people, Irving suggests, ‘have something of the Arabian character’ to them. Consequently, as one of his fantastic characters relates,

all Spain is a country under the power of enchantment. There is not a mountain cave, not a lonely watch-tower in the plains nor ruined castle on the hills, but has some spellbound warriors sleeping from age to age within its vaults, until the sins are expiated for which Allah permitted the dominion to pass for a time out of the hands of the faithful.

This is quite good fun if you like this sort of thing (I do), but it is probably of minor interest to those who are not planning a visit to the actual place themselves. This particular edition is one of at least three that are sold in gift-shops within the Alhambra grounds; it's clearly been converted from a Spanish edition, as there are several odd typos and all the speech is given in guillemets. The editorial notes do not inspire confidence (on the first page, Scottish artist David Wilkie is glossed as an ‘English painter’), but then again, I found in a weird way that it added to the pleasingly alien effect of the whole ensemble. ( )
  Widsith | Oct 5, 2015 |
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Washington Irvingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Leeuw, H.G.B. deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the spring of 1829, the author of this work, whom curiosity had brought into Spain, made a rambling expedition from Seville to Granada in company with a friend, a member of the Russian embassy at Madrid. Accident had thrown us together from distant regions of the globe and a similarity of taste led us to wander together among the romantic mountains of Andalusia.
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While serving as ambassador to Spain, Irving wrote this romantic collection of annecdotes about his trip to Granada and his stay at Alhambra, including various legends from Moorish times. This edition is illustrated with engravings from Iriving’s time.
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First published in 1832, consists of essays and short fiction pieces.

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