Tag Archives: spain

Rereading: James Michener’s ‘Iberia’

I have come up with a recurring topic idea I’ll continue if people find it interesting:  re-reads.  I have a lot of books, enough that I could not re-read them all in five years, including many to which I later return.  I don’t like to post reviews on Amazon, unless I have a motive; I resent them shipping my content to affiliates.  (Yes, they have the legal right.  Not disputed.  Nor should they dispute my legal right to refrain from donating my content to them.)

When most of us think of Michener, we think of his great historical fiction novels that span great ranges of time.  They walk us through the development of a culture, and in so doing they help us see that culture’s modern residents in light of their forebears.  My personal favorites are The Covenant (South Africa), Centennial (Colorado), Alaska, Texas and The Source (Palestine).

Iberia differs.  It is a composite personal travelogue of the author’s experiences in Spain (Portugal is not really included).  This is that rare book for which hardcover is by far the best edition, because I own it in both hardback and paperback, and the hardback contains many more of Robert Vavra’s excellent photographs.  James Michener met Spain as a very young man, came to know it well, and its people showed him their country as thoroughly as a people can.  Spaniards can be sensitive about the world’s take on their world-shaping, gold-glittering, intensely religious past.  Said world has given them ample cause.  It follows that they considered Michener an honest broker worthy of hidden knowledge, frank debate and candid admission.

It reads differently from his fiction, as you would expect, because fiction and non-fiction narrative often differ slightly. In the editing world, we must take account of this. If this is his natural style, though, I like it. It is sophisticated yet word-economical.

What it means for you:  a trove of cultural enrichment.  Think of every social science and humanity discipline applied to a given nation, from history to fine arts.  That describes Iberia with respect to Spain and Spaniards.