Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Books, Madrid and Spring

AOG, Madrid

pring has arrived in Madrid. Or so it would appear. After many weeks of cold weather, and sunny skies (a local specialty), the past couple of days have been warmer. Last night I walked home from work with my sweater on and arrived blistering hot. I leave the office around 10:30 at night.

I started walking home about two weeks ago. I need the exercise but the walk allows me to gather my thoughts before getting home and it also shows me a different face of Madrid.

I work in a very elegant neighbourhood and I enjoy looking at all the architectural styles the Salamanca quarter of Madrid has to offer. It was built in the XIX century and from the start it has been where rich Spanish and foreign citizens liked to dwell.

Often I look up and see the beautiful juxtaposition of Art Deco, pre Civil War buildings standing next to turn-of-the-century French style buildings, the odd church, private school or Palace -like the amazing Italian embassy, probably Madrid’s most beautiful embassy building, also known as the Amboage palace.

Last night, as had happened all throughout the day, I could see pollen wafting around the air. I did not notice this last year. I’ve read is plantain pollen. It is fluffy and rather big.

The other sign that Spring has arrived is the opening of Madrid’s Old Books Fair, on Castellana Boulevard.

About 30 stands display their wares and I cant help myself from being naturally drawn to them.

I like to walk around and peruse the remnants of Spain’s literary past. But not only Spain. Often you can find American, French and British novels, Franco-era guides and political documents, old Spanish Stocks and bonds, German art tomes, modern reproductions of XVI century maps of Madrid, as well as a myriad of worn, heavy and probably priceless leather bound books. For me, the covers alone make would be reason enough to buy them.

The first time I went, (last week), there was a gentleman who went from stand to stand asking if they had anything on the Philippines. As long as he hovered around me, nobody did. I wanted to ask him if he was a historian, or, at least, why the interest in that country.

The Philippines, although a one-time colony of Spain, does not really get a lot of airtime in Spain these days. It could be the fact that, unlike the other colonies, it lost the ability to speak Spanish after it was lost to the US in 1898.

Last Sunday I went there again. I saw a book on the Canadian Perception of the American Civil War, written in the 1970s. It looked very interesting and thought about purchasing it. But I didn’t.

Today I had 30 minutes to kill, and couldn’t wait for the stands to open- which they do at 11 am. The book was still there. Four Euros later, it was mine. I find it fascinating. One never reads much on US-Canadian relations.

I also bought a couple of old National Geographics…three for five Euros. One of them had an article on Mexico; the other on the Panama Canal; and the last one on Rio de Janeiro. There was another on Air Safety and West Germany, but I went with a Hispanic theme.

I also saw a beautiful book on Mexico, printed by Mexico’s Italian Institute back in

the 1930s. The photographs were something else. As was the 200 Euros price. But there were more.

I love cartography and maps. I saw two gigantic Atlases of Spain circa 1980s, the price of which I was too afraid to ask. I also spotted art book after luxurious art book on Madrid’s Prado museum. About one per decade since 1900. At one point I was Prado’d out. There are other museums in Spain, though, true, none as important, invaluable or famous.

I will be leaving my desk in a little while. I look forward to seeing something new tonight as I stroll home.

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