Discovering Barcelona through books
AL DÍA recommends five books set in the sunny Mediterranean city
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Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, Barça, the Picasso Museum, the beach... Barcelona is a city full of culture and entertainment, but also a literary city. Proof of that fact are the numerous books and novels that have the Catalan capital as the setting for amazing stories. AL DÍA has compiled five of the most representative ones, available in both Spanish and English.
1. La sombra del viento / Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruíz-Zafón
Set in the enigmatic Barcelona of the early 20th century, this literary mystery mixes techniques of intrigue, historical novel and comedy of manners, but it is, above all, a historical tragedy of love with an echo projected through time. With great narrative force, the author interweaves plots and enigmas like Russian dolls in an unforgettable story about the secrets of a man and his family.
2. La catedral del mar /Cathedral of the Sea, by Idelfonso Falcones
Barcelona, 14th century. The city is at its moment of greatest prosperity; the inhabitants of the humble fishermen's quarter decide to build, with the money of some and the effort of others, the largest Marian temple ever known: Santa María de la Mar. This story is joined by that of Arnau, a feudal serf who flees to Barcelona, where he becomes a citizen and thus a free man.
Cathedral of the Sea is a plot in which loyalty and revenge, betrayal and love, war and plague intertwine in a world marked by religious intolerance, material ambition and social segregation.
3 . Nada / Nada: a Novel, by Carmen Laforet
Written by one of the most important authors of the 20th century, Nada tells the story of Andrea, a young woman who moves to Barcelona to study literature at university just after the end of the Spanish Civil War. As soon as she enters her grandmother's apartment, the dirt, tradition, tension, violence and hatred — a perfect reflection of the society of the time — cloud the illusion she feels for her new life in Barcelona. But when he meets Ena, a girl from the faculty, she discovers a bright and hopeful world and realizes that the longed-for freedom she seeks is closer than she thinks.
4. La ciudad de los prodigios / City of Marvels, by Eduardo Mendoza
The prolific writer Eduardo Mendoza immerses readers in the period between the two Universal Exhibitions of Barcelona in 1888 and 1929, against the backdrop of a tumultuous, agitated and picturesque city, real and fictitious. The protagonist is Onofre Bouvila, an impoverished immigrant, anarchist propaganda distributor and street vendor of creepel, and his rise to the pinnacle of financial and criminal power.
5. Private Life / Vida Privada, by Josep Maria de Sagarra
In 1932, Josep Maria de Sagarra — the most acclaimed poet and playwright of his time in Catalonia, translator of Dante and Shakespeare — locked himself away for two months to publish the "great Catalan novel": Private Life. The novel, which caused a great scandal, is set in the Barcelona high society of the 1930s. An unpaid bill of exchange, the trigger for a tragic blackmail plotted by a nihilistic gigolo, reveals a decadent world of ruined aristocrats, tinsel entertainers, unpresentable parvenus and stifling moral misery.
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