Barcelona & Madrid: What to Read? Watch?

Most of my travels in the last few years have been to places undiscovered. I keep coming back to London, and will again this year, but Istanbul, India, even France, Switzerland, Ireland — all new to me in the last year or so.

But this year I’m going back to the place where the wanderlust began. I studied abroad in Spain the summer of 2000 and am meeting up with an American friend for six days there before visiting friends in Lausanne, Amsterdam and London. I have been thinking of, dreaming about, expressing my love for Spain for the last 11 years. To go back… a gift. I feel something in my bones about the trip. I want to start soaking it all up—now.

My traveling companion and I have talked about putting together a “reading” list, to which I’m adding time-efficient film, to be steeped in culture before we go. My preference is for great art that illuminates Spain, its people, its places, its history and its culture. I’m particularly keen to read a great engrossing personal-drama-focused historical novel about the Franco era, a la La Fiesta del Chivo, which I pored over while in the Dominican Republic five years ago.

Here’s my list so far. Add your suggestions in the comments, please. I’ll update accordingly.

Spanish History: Film

  • The Spirit of the Beehive: made while Franco was still in power in the 70s, set in the post-Civil War days. Watched part of it last week. Fell asleep. This is not a comment on the film, but on last week.
  • Salvador: A 2006 film I stumbled on at some hotel site that tells the story of an anarchist executed during the last days of Franco’s reign. Anyone seen it?
Barcelona: Film
  • L’Auberge Espagnole: saw this years ago and want to soak it all up again. I want to spend as much time at cafe as they did.
Madrid: Film
  • I got nothin’. Other than Almódovar films, of which I’ve seen many, is there anything iconic? Browsing the Wiki page for Films Set in Madrid, I’m interested in Esa Pareja Feliz, a 50s film, mostly for its in-the-moment look at what Spain was like under Franco.
Spanish History: Books
  • I found this list of the 40 best novels in Spanish, collected on someone’s blog. I’ve been interested in La sombra del Viento … uh, though I will probably read it in English. Probably. I read Allende in Spanish once upon a time.
  • Also very interested in Nada, a novel called once of the best written during the Franco regime about a young female protagonist.
  • And, this list wouldn’t be complete with a little lament that I studied Spanish literature in college, and I’m still struggling to compile this list. I got a great overview of the 16th-19th centuries, I suppose…
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1 Response to “Barcelona & Madrid: What to Read? Watch?”


  1. 1 Kara 20 April 2011 at 09:14

    I tried to remember what I did during my summer in Spain in, ahem, 1995. I’m afraid I wasn’t too excited about Spanish literature and spent much more time on Latin American literature, so I can’t offer even one suggestion on that front. But the best memory this brought was of an Almodovar film festival I attended in Sevilla – that was 16 years ago and there was enough around for a film festival! I also saw “Barcelona” as it had just released there. Although having nothing to do with Franco, it was a fun film for the ’90s! And I still harbor a secret desire to name a child Montserrat after the female lead.


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