Sunday, October 10, 2010



This is a remarkable novel concerning a journalist seeking to discover the truth about an incident in the Spanish Civil War.

The book has three parts – the first documents the search, the second, tells the story he uncovers (which is largely based on actual historical facts). The third part takes many surprising turns. The writer is not satisfied with his story, there’s something missing. By chance he meets the real-life novelist Roberto Bolano [See Previous Posts below] who, in turn, has a story to tell,. This leads the journalist on a long, strange journey to meet a remarkable larger-than-life character who brings the story to a remarkable and profound conclusion.

Cercas is a wonderful story-teller with a light touch and a beautiful and accessible style. The book is a  history lesson about the complex nature of the Civil War combined with a thrilling and engaging investigation, full of surprising twists and turn. Its fully-realised characters and incidents excite the imagination and inspire deep philosophical reflection. The book is full of humour and deep insights and it will bring tears to your eyes and touch your heart. It was with great sadness that I came to the end of the story this morning, having lived in the book’s spell for almost a month. A truly great novel which will live in my memory.

Coincidentally, during this same period, I rediscovered a remarkable Spanish film whilst steadily re-cataloguing my substantial collection of VHS tapes [more discoveries to follow]


Dream of Light’ (aka ‘The Quince Tree Sun’) is a documentary about the Spanish painter Antonio López García who, every year, sets out to capture the beauty of the quince tree in his garden. Its is the most amazing film about painting I have ever seen. Beautifully shot, it moves at a steady, slow, stately pace. We watch the painter make up his canvas and then, step by step, follow his meticulous preparations and the various stages leading to the realisation of his work. Other characters come and go – his wife and daughters, an artist friend (who sits and talks to Garcia while he paints) and three Polish builders who are renovating his house.


One of  Garcia’s remarkable realist paintings, from ANTONIO LOPEZ GARCIA  - a tribute in images

This beautiful film, directed by Victor Erice (best known for ‘The Spirit of the Beehive’) is the complete antithesis to most of modern cinema. We see the world through the painter’s eyes, the camera lingering on the beauty that he perceives in the swelling golden quinces. It is a film full of small details and touching moments, which repays repeated viewings. In the frenetic modern world, it offers an oasis of calm reflection, exciting the eye and the imagination with its ravishing cinematography. A real treasure.




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