A HISTORY OF SPAIN by Jean Descola


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Blood dries quickly in Spain"", M. Descola remarks in the course of this book. One might add that this is a fortunate circumstance--otherwise Spaniards would be drowned in the seas of it which have been shed there since the beginning of history. From Viriathus to the Civil War, this bloodletting has primarily taken place in relentless guerrilla fighting. Another eternal fact about Spain which M. Descola is careful to illustrate amply is the close identity, from Roderic to Franco, of Church and state. Indeed, he devotes as much if not more space to saints, mystics, and prelates as to kings and politicians. He also devotes the same attention to painters and writers as he does to conquistadors and patriots. Granting the impossibility in the first place of creating, in a single volume, a history of a whole people from the cavemen of Altamira to the Spaniard of today which is at once comprehensive and readable, one must acknowledge M. Descola's phenomenal accomplishment. At the same time, however, it should be fair enough to remark that a paucity of dates in the text will force the reader to consult frequently the tables in the appendices, while a staggering procession of unheralded proper nouns will make him devoutly wish he were better acquainted with the subject at hand. (But of course if he were, a one-volume survey such as this would be of no use to him.) M. Descola's intended public was French, and while this factor matters very little for most of the book, it may contribute a rather confusing perspective for American readers in the last few chapters.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1962
Publisher: Knopf