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Spain Inspires: The Best Books Written in Spain by Foreigners

There is nothing more evocative than a place where time seems to stand still, where the sun can shine with kindness or beat down its strong, harsh rays, where rain refreshes hot sidewalks or floods them with melancholy, where sunsets glow red with passion and dawn stains the Mediterranean sky blue.

No wonder our country has inspired international authors throughout the ages. Take a look at just a few of the most interesting ones.

Perhaps the most famous international writer in love with Spain has been Hemingway. As you probably know he was a journalist during the bloody Spanish Civil War. For Whom Bell Tolls was a work inspired by the conflict. But perhaps among his best-known works were those devoted to Pamplona The Sun Also Rises, for example, one of his most beloved novels, put the festival of San Fermín on the map.

Students in Granada

Our students, looking for inspiration in Granada.

Fascination with Spain’s landscapes and people was nothing new even in Hemingway’s time. In fact, international authors throughout the ages but especially during the Romantic Era, felt the call of an exotic, mysterious and unknown Spain. Lord Byron himself passed through Andalusia and although he was only there for three days, he had time to woo a young lady (who gave him a lock of her hair), taste the wines of Jerez and, of course, be inspired to write “The Girl of Cadiz.”

You could say Byron was the ace of hearts, and following this game three other aces in the romantic deck follow close behind. Let’s take a little look at George Sand, Prosper Mérimée and Washington Irving. The famous French author, Sand, along with his beloved Chopin are remembered in the Balearic Islands thanks to his travel journal, A Winter in Majorca. Mérimée is famous for having given shape to the passionate, strong, fatal woman archetype in Carmen; and Washington Irving left behind the darkness of Sleepy Hollow to travel to Granada and tell us the wonderful Tales of the Alhambra.

Andalusia enchanted many authors… even saving the life and work of some. The Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke traveled to Ronda. He felt its greatness and beauty deep in his soul and was left frustrated when he couldn’t translate its wonder into words. It got to the point where he tried to commit suicide; but the spirit of the city called him back and without leaving his room he composed his famous Spanish Trilogy.

The same type of internal sadness and tragedy also inspired Virginia Woolf. Although she never set foot in Spain, she felt deeply moved by the events of the Spanish Civil War, and especially by the loss of a nephew who participated in that dark time in our history as an ambulance driver.

We’ve now talked about English, American, French and Austrian authors. But Spain has also called out to authors from countries which share its language! The famous Mario Vargas Llosa was named Marquis by the Crown in Spain and Gabriel García Márquez would find his second home in Barcelona.

Ronda

Ronda, Rilke’s source of agony and ecstasy

We could write page upon page about authors inspired by Spain, but we thought we’d keep it short and sweet this time. However, and by way of curiosity, we thought we’d quote one more case we love: the case of Robert Wilson, a Scottish author of noir fiction whose most iconic character is a policeman from Seville! His name is Javier Falcón, and although we can imagine him starring in typical or even cliché stories, he is a pretty classic detective, a sort of Spanish, authentic and modern day Sam Spade.

With all the magic of Spain in mind, we say to all you aspiring writers out there… why not come to Spain and get inspired?

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