- Posted by British Spanish Society
- On November 26, 2014
By Jules Stewart
Journalist and author Tom Burns Marañón delivered a fascinating talk at the Instituto Cervantes in November based on his book Hispanomanía, an account of the curiosos impertinentes, travellers from other European countries and the US who came to Spain with preconceived notions about the country.
Tom took his audience through the journeys of 19th century romantics like the French poet Théophile Gautier, who found in the colour of the land and its people an inspiration for some of his best poetry in España, and prose in Voyage en Espagne. Tom’s book also focuses on two other French curiosos impertinentes, George Sand and Maurice Legendre, the latter an enthusiastic Hispanist who held the post of director of the Casa de Velázquez at the French cultural institute in Madrid.
Tom recounted the fascinating tale of Legendre’s experiences in Las Hurdes which, at the time of his first visit in 1912, was arguably one of the most primitive and deprived regions of Europe. That visit led Legendre to launch a campaign to call public attention to the miserable living conditions of the hurdanos, in which he enlisted the aid of the novelist Miguel de Unamuno and Tom’s maternal grandfather, the celebrated physician Gregorio Marañón.
The conceptions (and misconceptions), mishaps and adventures of British travellers Richard Ford and George Borrow provided a source of amusement, leading up to the more familiar voices of the volunteers of the International Brigades, and those who went to Spain to report on or to participate in the fighting of the Civil War. George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway, for instance, viewed Spain through very different lenses, but what both had in common was a shared love and admiration for the country, which comes through in their classics Homage to Catalonia and For Whom the Bell Tolls.
One wonders if Tom might be considering a worthy follow-up to his excellent book with another on Spanish travellers abroad, looking at the exploits of such notables as the playwright Leandro Fernández de Moratín and poet Federico García Lorca, and how these Spaniards and others of the 19th and 20th centuries interpreted life outside their homeland.
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