Around the World in Words: Spain

Spain is close to my heart. My parents and brother lived in Madrid in the early ‘80s. Growing up, and to this day, my parents’ house is adorned with an assortment of Spanish paraphernalia.

I grew up to the sounds of Julio Iglesias and Plácido Domingo permeating our homes, and from paella and sangria to tapas and flamenco, the flame was lit in their hearts. It was a passion they instilled in me. The fire was fuelled by watching my best friend Janet pursue Spanish dancing, while I fell in love with Spanish filmmakers such as Alejandro Amenábar and particularly Pedro Almodóvar.

The Spanish actor Antonio Banderas has regularly worked with Almodóvar. These collaborations, along with regular outings with director Robert Rodriguez, made me fervently follow the actor’s career. Last year, I was lucky enough to meet Banderas during his sojourn in South Africa.

After watching the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona, my virtual love affair with Spain continued as I fell in love with the city and Javier Bardem; although my obsession with the city was probably seeded when I read Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell.

Orwell, however, was English. As far as I recall, the only Spanish book I’d read before this challenge was Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes, which I absolutely loved. My Twitter bio is even inspired by the title character, who called himself a “righter of wrongs”, upon which I twisted the phrase around to “writer of no wrongs”.

For this challenge I read Captain Alatriste, the first in a series of adventure novels set in the 17th century, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Fast-paced, action-packed, and full of wit, it’s told in first person by the title character’s irrepressible and spirited young accomplice Íñigo.

The story takes place in Madrid, and the city is brought to life with verve by the author. In May, I’ll be visiting Spain for the first time, staying on Las Ramblas in Barcelona and walking the same path as Orwell, one of my favourite writers. I’ll also be heading to Madrid, thus solidifying my love for Spain, and taking my heart to a place my late brother once called home.

A man’s true homeland is his childhood. – Arturo Pérez-Reverte

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