Sketches Of Spain: Castile

Leer esto en castellano

Let me just say straightaway what this book is not: it’s not a travel book. Not that it won’t inspire you to visit places:

The Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (Photo by anamfp via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/pho
The Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (Photo by anamfp via Flickr)

Federico García Lorca was a poet (and a playwright) and this is a book of poetry, written in prose. Take this:

“Eternal death will lock you into the gentle, honeyed sound of your rivers, and hues of tawny gold will always kiss you when the fiery sun beats down…”


According to the foreword, Lorca wrote this book – his first – at the age of nineteen or twenty after attending some field trips organised by his university literature professor who wanted his students to visit important locations in Spanish culture.

I go and visit places in Spain (and no, not just the beaches). I look but, evidently, do not see.

“These fields are an immense symphony of congealed blood without trees, cool respite or shelter for the brain, full of superstitious prayer, broken lances, enigmatic villages, withered men, pitiful offspring of a giant race and august, cruel darkness… Everywhere there is anguish and aridity, poverty and power… and fields, yet more fields, all red, all kneaded in the blood of Cain and Abel… The red cities are almost invisible amid these fields.

Cities full of melancholy charm, of memories of tragic loves, of the lives of queens perpetually waiting for a husband who, cross on chest, has gone to war, memories of funeral processions where, afraid of flaming brands, people watched the ravaged faces of holy martyrs fleeing Moorish profanation on their way to be buried, memories of prancing stallions and grim shadows of hanged men, of monkish miracles, of white apparitions in sorrowful prayers leaving belfries when it struck twelve, scattering owls, beseeching the living to take mercy on their souls, memories of the voices of cruel monarchs and the chilling responses of the Inquisition as some heretical astrologer’s burnt flesh crackled.

The whole of Spain’s past and almost its entire present is palpable in the solemnly august cities of Castile…”

I reflect on things. I analyse. I use a thousand words yet fail to capture the essence.

“Cities of Castile full of sanctity, horror and superstition! Cities ruined by progress and now mutilated by civilisation!…”

I put it to you: how can anybody observe, think and write like this at the age of twenty?

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