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Iberia (1968)

by James A. Michener

Other authors: Robert Vavra (Photographer)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9441616,610 (3.75)31
Spain is an immemorial land like no other, one that James A. Michener, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and celebrated citizen of the world, came to love as his own. Iberia is Michener's enduring nonfiction tribute to his cherished second home. In the fresh and vivid prose that is his trademark, he not only reveals the celebrated history of bullfighters and warrior kings, painters and processions, cathedrals and olive orchards, he also shares the intimate, often hidden country he came to know, where the congeniality of living souls is thrust against the dark weight of history. Wild, contradictory, passionately beautiful, this is Spain as experienced by a master writer.   Praise for Iberia   "From the glories of the Prado to the loneliest stone villages, here is Spain, castle of old dreams and new realities."--The New York Times   "Massive, beautiful . . . unquestionably some of the best writing on Spain [and] the best that Mr. Michener has ever done on any subject."--The Wall Street Journal   "A dazzling panorama . . . one of the richest and most satisfying books about Spain in living memory."--Saturday Review   "Kaleidoscopic . . . This book will make you fall in love with Spain."--The Houston Post… (more)
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» See also 31 mentions

English (15)  Dutch (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Whew! It only took me 7 years to finish this book. It is solely my fault, I set it down and didn't pick it up for years, and when I did start it again, it didn't matter that I hadn't read it for a while. Now that I've finished, I feel like reading chunks of it again. It is not a novel, nor is it simply a travel memoir. It is Michener's paean to the country, culture and people of Spain. Michener had travelled in Spain in the 30s, before the Spanish Civil War and then returned 30 years later to explore it again. He delves into everything that makes Spain what it is, and he loves it, every bit of it: the food, the music, the architecture, the legends, the history, the bullfights, the romance and the reality of it. Even though this book is now 50 years old, I couldn't recommend a better introduction to both Michener and to the puzzle that is Spain. Though I could have done with a little less about the bulls, he did get me to appreciate that there is a kind of beauty to the barbaric practice. ( )
  Marse | Dec 28, 2020 |
Spain through its history and current condition as of 1968 ( )
  JackSweeney | Mar 16, 2018 |
i'm not sure i can technically count this book as having been actually read because of all the skimming and even scanning that i did throughout.

i am an awfully big fan of michener but have rarely liked his nonfiction stuff nearly as well as his fiction. this nonfiction is billed as his recounting his travels through spain. i love spain. i have spent a decent amount of time there for someone who has never lived anywhere but america. i mostly love michener. i should have loved this book. but no.

i may have liked it better if it had been correctly labeled as history, because that changes my expectations going in. once i really and truly realized that this wasn't about his travels in spain but about spain and spanish history and spanish tradition/culture/art/food/folklore/architecture/music/what-have-you (which didn't really happen for me until around 600 pages in) i was able to find more value in it. still, there are large swaths of this book that i couldn't bear to even skim, and found myself scanning for things that might be of interest. (i think that's really a first for me.) there was way way way too much detail about so many things, and then brushing off of other things that could have been really interesting. i couldn't abide the part about bullfighting. i don't care that he believes it is and that he describes it as art not as sport, i just can't read such detail about that kind of senseless killing and stay sane. i couldn't read the more than 10 page description of the cathedral in santiago. i was really looking forward to the last chapter on santiago, hoping he would describe his pilgrimage along the way of st james as he took the walk for the last time 40 years before i did. it was a disappointing revisiting of something i normally love to read about. i wish this was more travel and less history but if you're looking for history, maybe this is the right book, i don't know.

still, i give 1 star instead of .5 because there were some interesting parts.

this made me laugh out loud, as this book itself is 960 pages, and many of his others are tomes around the same size:
"I went back to the cathedral plaza and spent most of one morning writing ten letters, a job I find difficult, for words do not come easily to me."

an example of what made me want to pull my hair out; i can't imagine why he would include something like this:
"The plaza isn't quite a perfect square. One afternoon when I had nothing better to do I stepped it off in all directions, but I forget the results."

there were some other things that i noted for their humor or their insight. this isn't worthless, but it's also not terribly worthwhile, or at least certainly not as a travelogue. and frankly it makes me rethink my excitement in eventually reading his memoir. there is really, really good michener out there but this is not it. ( )
1 vote overlycriticalelisa | Mar 25, 2014 |
I spent many years of my life in Spain and I dare to say, that the best books about this country are written by foreigners, especially by English speaking authors. The first place is due to James Michener, although he is not European. His subtle study of Spain reveals the many reasons why Spain is different from the rest of the Old World and why there are still four different languages spoken. Robert Vavra’s photos complete the work in a congenial manner.
  hbergander | Feb 15, 2014 |
This book is now very dated having been written during the Franco regime. Spain has (obviously) gone through major transitions in the past 45 years. That said, there is no book about Spain that I would more highly recommend than Iberia. Michener does a fantastic job of describing the art, the history, the architecture, the customs and so on that make Spain such a fascinating place.

Michener was a prolific and very successful author. Many of his books, especially the later ones, were historical fiction. Iberia does not fit in that mold. Rather, Iberia is a travelogue. To me, Iberia is more like the dream trip you always intend to take with the world's most knowledgeable travel guide who can walk through the town and regale you with tales of the battle fought outside the medieval walls, the history of the cathedral across the street, and the origin of the dish you are having for lunch. Having lived in various parts of Spain, including Andalusia, the real beauty of Spain is in the layers of history and cultures that made their marks, whether in the language or the landscape.

Iberia captures that beauty and brings the richness of Spanish history to life. As an added bonus, the book provides the reader with a wonderful baseline history of Spain. I could not recommend this book any more highly and it has long been one of my favorites. ( )
  Oberon | Mar 8, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James A. Michenerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Vavra, RobertPhotographersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berry, SteveIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Spain, solid, dark, mysterious, looming out of the gray waves.
Badajoz still lay forty miles to the north.
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Spain is an immemorial land like no other, one that James A. Michener, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and celebrated citizen of the world, came to love as his own. Iberia is Michener's enduring nonfiction tribute to his cherished second home. In the fresh and vivid prose that is his trademark, he not only reveals the celebrated history of bullfighters and warrior kings, painters and processions, cathedrals and olive orchards, he also shares the intimate, often hidden country he came to know, where the congeniality of living souls is thrust against the dark weight of history. Wild, contradictory, passionately beautiful, this is Spain as experienced by a master writer.   Praise for Iberia   "From the glories of the Prado to the loneliest stone villages, here is Spain, castle of old dreams and new realities."--The New York Times   "Massive, beautiful . . . unquestionably some of the best writing on Spain [and] the best that Mr. Michener has ever done on any subject."--The Wall Street Journal   "A dazzling panorama . . . one of the richest and most satisfying books about Spain in living memory."--Saturday Review   "Kaleidoscopic . . . This book will make you fall in love with Spain."--The Houston Post

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Book description
This is a wonderful story of Spain through the eyes and experience of James Michener. He brings you there to experience it with him with what feels like a personal and spiritual exploration of his love of Spain, it peoples, land and history. It reads fluently and easily and visually. There are lots of facts, much information though dated, plus history and architecture.
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The enduring qualities of Spain, an immemorial place like no other in the world, has made it James Michenr's second home. Here, in the fresh and vivid prose that is his trademark, he not only reveals the celebrated Spain of bullfighters and warrior kings, painters and processions, cathedrals and olive orchards; he also shares the intimate, often hidden Spain he has come to know, where toiling peasants and their honest food, the salt of the shores and the oranges of the inland fields, the congeniality of living souls and the dark weight of history, conspire to create a wild, contradictory, passionately beautiful land, the mystery called Iberia.
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