Barcelona by the Books Featured
Many international writers have covered Barcelona and Catalonia. In the first of a new series of blogs we look at some of the best books about the region.
That Catalonia is a beacon for foreigners is obvious. As well as the vast numbers of tourists that come here, almost 300,000 guiris now call Barcelona their permanent home. Non-Spanish passport holders cluster in huge numbers around areas such as the Costa Brava but even in remote towns and villages there are usually at least a few residents from another country.
Despite this, there has always been something of a disconnect between many incomers and their new home. The language -- or languages -- barrier certainly accounts for much of it. Without a good level of Spanish and Catalan, most of the literature, history and travel writing about the region remains inaccessible.
There are, however, many authors who have written in English about Catalonia. It's impossible to cover everything in one blog entry so there will be further instalments in this series in the weeks ahead.
The essential text in the field is the incomparable 'Barcelona' by Robert Hughes. The most recent edition of this biography of the city is, at ten years old, becoming a little dated but it is still the best guide to the story of the city within the broader context of the history of Catalonia. Hughes is an art critic and particularly excels here when he's writing about the architecture of Barcelona but the overall level of erudition on display here is extraordinary.
For a less encyclopaedic but more contemporary look at life here, Matthew Tree's collection of essays, 'Barcelona, Catalonia: A View from the Inside' stands out. (You can read more about Matthew in our exclusive interview with him here.) Matthew has lived here since 1984 and is a successful writer in Catalan, with a unique perspective and ability to explain Catalonia to others.
In matters gastronomical, the oustanding overview of the region's food is Colman Andrews's 'Catalan Cuisine: Europe's Last Great Culinary Secret'. It's also showing its age but remains a must-read because of its explanations of the traditional culinary roots of modern Catalan cooking and because of its wonderful recipes for some classic dishes. Andrews is an international writer but even if he has so far resisted the temptation to create a new edition of this book he has stayed in touch with the development of Catalonia's kitchen culture, most recently penning a definitive biography of Ferran Adrià.
If you're more interested in soccer than sofregit, the English-language history of FC Barcelona by Jimmy Burns will keep you enthralled. 'Barça: A People's Passion' shows how the story of the club and the story of the city are inseparable and is worth reading just for the historical narrative of Barcelona through the 20th Century.
This is by no means a comprehensive list so look out for more in the weeks ahead. If you've got a favourite book about Barcelona or Catalonia, let us know and we'll be sure to include it!