The American public is being introduced to Spain's leading modern writer
with two books in translation this fall, illustrating - with fine examples-
the two genres in which his reputation is secure over a period of twenty odd
years. An extraordinarily powerful novel, The Family of Pascual Duarte is
being published by Atlantic Monthly Press in September (see report p. 678).
About two weeks later this exquisite travel book appears. It has a deceptive
simplicity and can be read solely for the subtle style, the technical
brilliance in a fine translation by Mrs. Lopez-Morillas. Few will read it
for the tonic quality of the travels themselves, for this records a ten-day
walking trip through the Alcarria, a mountainous rural area northeast of
Spain, still primitive (back in 1946 when the trip was taken). But all
sensitive readers will sense the in??itive understanding of the Spanish
people encountered, whether vagabonds (as he himself appeared), travelling
salesmen, peddlers, or people of the village-priests, women washing clothes,
an idiot beggar boy, innkeepers, and friendly souls who gave him lodging and
shared their food. The symbolism - reflecting as it does Spain's "tired
body" and "divided soul"- comes through in the selection made of characters
portrayed. But what really counts, for this reader anyhow, is the panorama
of life and color and character, through vivid descriptions and minute
anecdotes. (Kirkus Reviews) --This text refers to an out of print or
unavailable edition of this title.
Awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize for Literature, Camilo José Cela has long
been recognized as one of the preeminent Spanish writers of the twentieth
century. Journey to the Alcarria is the best known of his vagabundajes,
Cela’s term for his books of travels, sketchbooks of regions or provinces.
The Alcarria is a territory in New Castile, northeast of Madrid,
surrounding most of the Guadalajara province. The region is high, rocky,
and dry, and is famous for its honey.
Cela himself is “the traveler,” an urban intellectual wandering from
village to village, through farms and along country roads, in search of
the Spanish character. Cela relishes his encounters with the simple,
honest people of the Spanish countryside—the blushing maid in the tavern,
the small-town shopkeeper with airs of grandeur lonely for companionship,
the old peasant with his donkey who freely shares his bread and blanket
with the stranger. These vignettes are narrated in a fresh, clear prose
that is wonderfully evocative. As the New York Times wrote, Cela is “an
outspoken observer of human life who built his reputation on portraying
what he observed in a direct colloquial style.”
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (January 21, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0871133792
- ISBN-13: 978-0871133793
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
- Average Customer Review:
The Alcarria is a mountainous region northeast of Madrid. In 1946, Cela (who won
the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989) toured the Alcarria, mostly by foot.
JOURNEY TO THE ALCARRIA is Cela's account of that tour. It has the virtue of
being short (139 pages). The Alcarria turns out to be rustic and simple, as is
Cela's account (giving rise to a variant on the chicken-and-egg conundrum).
According to the somewhat academic introduction to this edition, by Cela's
standards a travel-writer "must react with genuine and simple surprise to what
he sees, and jot it down without inventive alteration." Well, Cela followed that
formula to a T. There is a sort of rustic charm to the book, but in truth it
quickly becomes boring. I don't understand why it is celebrated (to refer to the
introduction once again, JOURNEY TO THE ALCARRIA is the "crowning point" of
Cela's travel sketches). Nor do I understand, if indeed JOURNEY TO THE ALCARRIA
is near the apex of his literary output, why Cela merited a Novel Prize.
Light and airy in style, filled with memorable scenes and characters, an
engaging narrator, and plenty of information about daily life in backroads Spain
50 years ago. I see why this author deserved a Nobel prize. However, skip the
introduction, a heavy handed piece of academic existentialist skulduggery that
almost persuaded me not to read the book.
I needed a short, easy book to read while on my vacation with my sister. She
happened to have this book along and lent it to me. I found myself travelling
through the countryside of Spain with Camilo Cela and loving it. He included
just enough information to let us share his experience without drowning us in
too much detail. I'll never have his exact memories but I felt like I could
recognize the places and feelings if I ever get to go there. I recommend this as
an enjoyable, easy read.
Here We found a good book, but there are a lot of books by C. Jose Cela better
than this one. This one brings the reader to a different Spain, and offers the
opportunity of getting deeper in arural world. Anyway, surely his best book it's
called La Colmena, not yet published in English, in which He describes the dark
moments of the 50's in Spain, from a cultural and a post civil war point of
view. I would recommend Journey to the Alcarria, but there are better ones.