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The Curiosos Impertinentes: British Travellers who Forged Spain’s Romantic Image

Sunday 2 April 2017

1 Hour


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Madrid-based writer William Chislett delves into the British writers who travelled throughout Spain in the 19th and 20th centuries. Commonly known as los curiosos impertinentes (literally the impertinent curiosities, after one of the interpolated tales in Cervantes’ Don Quixote), they were largely responsible for forging the stereotyped image of Spain that to some extent persists abroad today as a country of siesta, fiesta, flamenco and bullfighting.

They were a mixed lot and included George Borrow, best known for The Bible in Spain, Richard Ford, whose Handbook for Travellers in Spain (1845) is still one of the most perceptive books on the country, VS Pritchett (Marching Spain and The Spanish Temper), Norman Lewis (Spanish Adventure and Voices of the Old Sea), Laurie Lee (As I Walked Out One Summer Morning), Gerald Brenan (The Face of Spain and South from Granada) and more recently Michael Jacobs (Between Hopes and Memories: a Spanish Journey).

Chislett has lived in Spain since 1986. He covered the country’s transition to democracy (1975-78) for The Times. He writes about Spain for the Elcano Royal Institute, Spain’s main think tank, which has published four books of his on the country.