Interview by Nancy Todd
London born and living in Gibraltar as a child, Michael Eaude continues to cultivate roots of his near- Spanish heritage that have perpetuated his passion for Spain. He returned to Spain in 1989 and lives in Barcelona. His recent book, Barcelona: the City that Reinvented itself, is available at Books4Spain, a fabulous online bookstore that sells books about Spain. Dedicated to writing, Eaude presents a different slant to the Barcelona most people know.
1. When did you start writing and what motivates you to sit at your computer and hammer it out?
Since an early age. I’ve always written stories — fiction, but with little success in terms of publishing it. I’m motivated by several things: the feeling I can do it better than a lot of things I read, the desire to be published, but most intimately the satisfaction when an inchoate mass of words begins to fall into place.
2. Describe the purpose of your book, Barcelona, the City that Reinvented itself? What do you think are your most controversial points?
This is a book written out of the feeling that a lot of what was said about Barcelona was empty verbiage, puffing by the City Council and its supporters. It was described by one publisher who rejected it as “a broken-backed book” because it used the literature written about Barcelona as a starting-point, but then shifted into a political attack on the policies of the post-Franco City Council.
It started off with the literature written about Barcelona: Juan Goytisolo, Juan Marsé, Mercè Rodoreda, the French trio of Batailles, Genet and Mandiargues, Ruiz Zafón and, most of all, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, who showed me that you could bind literature and radical politics together. Vázquez Montalbán was my guide. I like the fact that it combines literature & politics.
The most controversial point, I guess, is a critique of the City Council from the left. The Socialist Party in power in the city from 1979 to 2011 built a model based on attracting tourism, business and congresses. The 1992 Olympic Games encapsulated this model. Some people, like the Anglo-Italian architect Richard Rogers, are full of praise for the ‘Barcelona brand’. I think you have to look closer at what the policies of the Council have actually done for the majority of Barcelona residents. If you love a place, you have a responsibility to be critical, not just fall around saying how pretty it is.
3. Where do you like to travel in Spain?
I don’t travel a lot these days, but there are several places I like. I lived in Madrid when I was young and have retained affection for it. I saw San Sebastián in the 60s, 70s and 80s and think it one of the most beautiful small cities. My favourite is Teruel and the country round about, where I go each summer.
4. What places in Spain do you think are overlooked and that people should see?
The Spanish state has been so invaded by tourism that I doubbt anywhere is overlooked. It is very varied culturally and geographically. There are mountain ranges, deserts and plains, and at least 3 nations in one state. I would recommend people visit the outlying areas of Barcelona and the Catalan coast: Tossa or Lloret off-season and walk along the cliffs, Sitges in the spring.
5. What are you reading now? What type of books are your favorites?
Right now, a book by Roberto Bolaño, Amberes, which is an early novel of his. I am reading my way through him — I tend to read my way through authors I like and I was very impressed by Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and 2666. I’m also reading Los girasoles ciegos by Alberto Méndez, a short and powerful book of four linked stories: recommended!
I tend to read quite variedly: modern US and UK literature. I like Philip Roth, Mailer, Elmore Leonard; and Sarah Waters, AS Byatt and Ali Smith. Detective novels on journeys. The classics too. I’ve read some twentieth-century Spanish & Catalan literature, but not so much as I would have liked . But when you live between different cultures, you can never really know enough about each one.
I try and read politics and history of the Spanish state, too.
Tell us more about books you love about Spain. If you are a writer, what are your writing habits?