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Narrative of a "road trip" through Spain undertaken by the author during the heyday of the Franco regime. The author's stated purpose was to get to know Spain and it's people, so the bulk of the narrative is the tale of various conversations with a variety of persons from (literally) all walks of life that encounters along the way, supplemented by his own observations of their daily lives and circumstances. These are sort of stitched together by excerpts from a Falange instruction book for girls and young women that he picks up along the way. His descriptions are very compelling, quietly witty, and insightful - whether of ordinary life or extraordinary events, such as a bullfight. Wright's travels led him to conclude that the people of Spain were suffering. The people he encountered told him so explicitly and from different points if view. As he recounts these conversations, he confirms their statements by describing the daily troubles, misery, and just plain strangeness he encountered. He developed the thesis that, underneath it all, Spain housed an unreconstructedly pagan culture and social system. Very much a book of its time and place.
Richard Wright, a Black American writer from US South travels in Franco's Spain where he experiences no prejudice on account of his color. It is a sort of travelog, interspersed with lengthy quotes from a political tract written in short declarative sentences, like for a child, which he obtained from a young Spanish woman (who had to memorize the information to pass a civil service exam). The book depicts the oppressive mindset of the times. Nobody dared to think, much less express any thought, so all energy went into music and dance, and bull fighting.
Written from a very personal insight Richard Wright, a black American writer, visits Spain and has some amazing revelations about Franco's Spain. Much of what has been revealed has not changed but is presently in a state of change because of the EU, financial collapse, changing Papal policies. There are still areas seeking independence, still agrarian woes, still a struggling middle class, still a rough look whenever Gibraltar is mentioned. Yes Spain basks in its past glories but is using its culture and history to promote tourism . If you are interested in Spanish culture or history you will appreciate and value this enjoyable read
I have been an admirer of Richard Wright since reading "Native Son" and "Black Boy" when I was a teenager. In 1992 my wife and I were on an Elderhostel to Spain and visited many of the places that Wright described in "Pagan Spain." Apparently much had changed in Spain in the forty years between Wright's sojourn and ours in 1992. For example the Alhambra in Granada seemed to be in good repair whereas Wright's description was much less flattering. The monarchy had been restored and it seemed to us naive Americans that life in Spain was relatively good. While at the Alhambra, our guide reported that most of the Spanish population could trace their ancestry back to the Arabs and the Jews of the middle ages. If true, then Spain indeed is the "melting pot" of Europe.
The "Valley of the Fallen" which was under construction during Wright's tour had been finished by 1992.. I found it to be one of the creepiest places II have ever been, It was this enormous cave, excavated for the purpose of honoring Spanish heroes of the Falange.. The two principal leaders of the Falange, Francisco Franco and Jose Antonio Rivera. are interred there along with hundreds of unnamed prisoners who were responsible for building the monument. It was gloomy and wet with drippings from above. All in all a very unpleasant place.
I am also curious about Franco's ancestry. If he was the progeny of " conversos" (Jews who remained in Spain after their expulsion in 1492) , would that have made a difference in Hitler's plans to have Spain enter World War II as part of the Axis?
The book was an interesting account of one man's experience in Franco's Spain and is worthwhile reading for persons interested in post-WWII Europe.
Excellent historical document despite a few errors. I live in Spain 6 months a year, and much of what he says about peoples' attitudes towards church, right or left wing narrow ideology is still mostly accurate.
Very interesting take on Spain after the Civil War. I was not aware of this until recently. Obviously Mr. Wright opinions are his own, but very clearly follow a very critical mind. All in all a good book.
Wright tries to explain an entire society by observing the actions and mentality of a very small, and narrowly selected group of people. He writes well, and he means well, but he cannot get past his lack of knowledge of the Spanish language, his personal biases, and the narrow focus of his observations. It is a shame he did not live longer. I would have liked to have seen how he would have dealt with the changes within the Franco government and the eventual transition to a democracy.