Nice story here about underpaid author Thomas Kohnstamm, who wrote his Lonely planet guide without going to Columbia. (Or did he go there and have to deal coke to survive? LD is characteristically confused.)
Guidebooks are so superficial, and information online so plentiful, that there’s actually no reason now why they shouldn’t be written from afar. (Diplomats all over the world are currently being binned for the same reason; this links in to the gradual decline of the late 20th century fetish on writing about X unless you are X, but let’s not go there today.)
In the same vein, it is also possible to visit somewhere and nevertheless fail to come up with the goods. I think Claire Prentice, writing in the (London) Times this weekend, actually visited to Barcelona. But, while she may have had a great time, she still gets approaching half her hard data wrong. Stuff like:
- Girona Airport is 90-110 minutes by car or 75 by bus from Barcelona city centre, not 40;
- it’s “Aeroport del Prat”, not “d’el Prat”;
- the tramontana typically blows up in Figueres at any time apart from the summer, when the prevailing wind is southerly;
- the new statute of autonomy came onto the books two years ago, not this spring;
- ETA didn’t declare a ceasefire in May (year?);
- there ain’t much construction going on east of the city but there is a whole lot of Mediterranean out there;
- completion of the Sagrada Familia is scheduled for 2026, not post-2058;
- it’s família, not famalia, although what she or the sub is getting at is anyone’s guess.
Claire Prentice’s silliest moment come when she tries to add a human touch:
[Gaudí’s] work had a typically Catalan spirit, which lives on today. While staff in shops, bars and restaurants in the centre are happy to talk to customers in the official Castilian Spanish, or English, you don’t have to travel too far to get a taste of Catalan nationalism. In a tobacco shop a few miles north of the city centre, my request (in Castilian) for three stamps is waved away by the middle-aged man serving. A faltering attempt in the guttural-sounding Catalan prompts a chuckle, but it also delivers the goods.
Speaking as a manic anti-nationalist ranter, this strikes me as complete bollocks. I’ve been in most of the separatist bars in Barcelona and have never been refused service for using Spanish, although I’ve had a few strange looks. And there is absolutely no way anyone would get funny with a customer for using that language in a normal shop, for the simple reason that roughly 77% of the local market regards itself as primarily Spanish-speaking. The most plausible explanation is that the guy in the shop couldn’t understand Claire Prentice because her Spanish is non-existent.
If you live in Barcelona, you know this stuff-and, for example, Graham Keeley does. If you don’t, you need to research it. So if we’re going to be written about by furriners, let’s have less Claire Prentices and more Thomas Kohnstamms. And don’t rely on any of them.
(Via Iberian Notes)
- Home schooling in Spain
God knows there are reasons enough to want to do it: school failure rates, currently 30% and rising; the lack of
- political writing
Taking the view that the plain folk of Catalonia were illiterate and uncouth to a degree that would lead to ridicule
- Narco tombs in San Miguel Arcángel, Culiacán and Barcelona
Luis Estrada’s new narcoflick, El Infierno, a brilliant narcoart short by Don Bartletti, and a couple of my old photos.
Lluís Foix is another of the lost old fools who wander round La Vanguardia gabbling the ultra-conservative mantras of the Franco
- Guardian prints any old bollocks about Catalonia
There’s a terrible piece by James Sturcke in the Guardian today on the statute of autonomy. It repeats various stale myths