Normal Lewis' Voices of the Old Sea is a beautifully told account of the transformations that undergo a small fishing village on the Catalan coast in the late 1940s. What makes the book worth reading is Lewis' skill in capturing the ordinary, the mundane and the changeless existence of the people until tourism arrives one day, and decides to stay. Their initial rejection and ultimate embrace of this new era unfolds with insight and compassion.
For those interested in contemporary Spain, the story is echoed across the whole peninsula as the gradual spread of tourism, like gout or any other infection, spreads down the coast, across to the Balearic and canary islands and finally, from the 1980s onward systematically inland.
Yet despite what on the surface looks to be like a malignant disease, Spain somehow still retains an identity and character undeniably Iberian. Where other cultures would have fallen, subsumed in the tidal wave of the new consumerist religion, Spain continues to maintain much of its tradition and culture despite the forces of invasion. Perhaps because - even after 40 years of democracy - Spain is still a relatively poor country within the EU, and, as Lewis points out at the end of the book: "Corruption doesn't come naturally to the poor as it does to the rich".
So true, so true.
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