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Barcelona The Great Enchantress

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  311 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
Beginning with a vivid description of his wedding in the splendid medieval ceremonial chamber in Barcelona's city hall, Hughes launches into a lively account of the history, art, and architecture of the storied city. He tells of architectural treasures abounding in 14th-century Barcelona, establishing it as one of Europe's great Gothic cities, while Madrid was hardly more ...more
ebook, 192 pages
Published June 15th 2011 by National Geographic (first published November 1st 1992)
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Roy Lotz
You know, when gazing fork in hand upon a butifarra—the fresh pork sausage of Catalunya—with its attendant white beans, that you are looking at the Truth and, better yet, on the point of cutting into its blistered and slightly blackened skin, that you are about to taste the Truth of sausagehood, too.

In just a couple weeks, I’ll be taking my first trip to Barcelona. I’m excited to go. Barcelona is often talked about here as a kind of anti-Madrid. While Madrid is central and conservative, Barcel
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fine little book, a pared down version of Hughes’s bigger volume, Barcelona. For those who do not require a blow-by-blow account of Catalan history, this smaller book is just the thing.

Hughes loves Barcelona and knows it well. That he often means “Catalunya” when he says “Barcelona” is not too important if you’re not reading this for academic reasons. Yet it surprised me to read some other errors and inaccuracies.

The worst of them was his use of Castilian for several Catalan place nam
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Barcelona is a great city and I have been several times including spending 2 months there in 2006 on sabbatical. Hughes loves the city and even learned the language, Catalan. Hughes' text centers on the building of the city and how it developed. It was a planned city in a similar vein as Washington DC. Of course the world knows the great architect Gaudi, but not the other great architects. Gaudi was considered something of a "crackpot" during his lifetime, and has no equal. He was both a radical ...more
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I happened on this book by accident a few years back and relished it. An ode to the city and to love, and is maybe more accessible to readers who found the earlier and fatter 'Barcelona' fabulous but hard work. Next time you visit, leave TimeOut and LPlanet behind (way too ponderous and beaten track in any case) and instead take this lovely work with you. I'm re-reading it now and reflecting how much we miss Bob Hughes: his prose, his acerbic originality and intellect, simply knowing he was ther ...more
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was told by a guide in Barcelona who took us to the Dali Museum and who is also a writer/photographer/art historian that this book and the longer version from 1993 is probably the best biographical information about Gaudi available ( and for some reason, there is not much available).
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Barcelona-adepts
Recommended to Elsje by: my boyfriend
Shelves: read-2006
Tijdens mijn verblijf in Barcelona, een maand geleden, had ik behoefte aan een alternatieve reisgids. Ik ben er nl. inmiddels zo vaak geweest, dan hoef je de Lonely Planet ff niet meer. Gelukkig kreeg ik voor mijn verjaardag, vlak voor het reisje, een leuk boekje over Barcelona. Uitgegeven in een reeks onder de vlag van National Geographic.

In slechts drie hoofdstukken (175 pagina's) vertelt de Australische Robert Hughes over zijn passie voor Barcelona. Die passie begon toen hij er voor het eerst
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if you can't handle Hughes' magisterial 1992 "Barcelona" this lighter version would be good to get a little "methadone fix" of art, history, personalities, and architecture of the next best place to the Basque Country.Barcelona
Haymone Neto
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Hughes conta com erudição, mas com prosa informal, um pouco da história da Grande Feiticeira. A arquitetura é a grande estrela de Barcelona, e é a ela que o crítico presta maior atenção, das igrejas góticas do século 14 aos projetos de Gaudí.
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
engaging personal account, fun to read.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Hughes produced a history and appreciation of Barcelona that is at times marred in a one-sided piece and confusing time jumps.
Dec 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting journey through the history of the city of Barcelona, its art and culture, as well as a good introduction on the "secrets" behind Catatonia's nationalism and identity.

I've read this book in search for answers and insights on what historical and artistic forces have shaped Barcelona into the unique metropolis it now is today. I also wanted to gain a better understanding of what it means to be Catalan (I owe this interest to the ongoing movements for Catalonia's independence as well
Aug 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Barcelona aficionados
Recommended to Lily by: Topic search
Just lost a review of decent length! Don't have the patience to reconstruct right now. Teach me to not save occasionally as I go along.

Will say briefly that Robert Hughes passion for Barcelona is infectious and clearly draws the reader into his text. He provides the reader a loving journey through the Catalan ambiance, extravagant architecture, industrial leadership, political unrest, and long history in Spain and on the Mediterranean coast, providing sassy anecdotes of some of her leading citiz
Nov 07, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't get to spend enough time in Spain. Something about Madrid... Something about the people... Something about Barcelona... I still can't shake that City even a year later. So I picked up a book by someone who can't seem to shake Barcelona either. Maybe Robert Hughes can explain the allure.

Update Jan 24th, 2008
Unfortunately, Robert Hughes can't explain shit. While he wanders from favorite place to favorite place, Hughes gives a very limited history of a few obscure buildings that only socie
Mike Mills
Now that I've had the amuse bouche, I would like to continue with my three course meal. This was a really condensed narrative of a much bigger volume. This version mainly focuses on the three main building booms that occurred in Barcelona in the last several hundred years. It was a fascinating and historically great read, in that Robert Hughes documented this as a tribute and love letter to his favorite city. I have been to Barcelona, only once, but I consider it one of my top three favorite des ...more
May 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Hughes was born in Australia and has lived in NYC a good part of his life, as art critic for Time magazine and a frequent contributor to the Times Book Review, but he has spent good chunks of his life in Barcelona, loves it and has studied its history (and written a much bigger book called _Barcelona_). This is a great overview of the history of Barcelona and the region of Catalunya--but because it's written from the personal perspective of a man who loves the city and has dug around in i ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author describes the changes in the city’s fabric, from the XIII to the XX century. The historical context is rather interesting and comprehensive. As a whole, the book gives us an accurate cultural picture of Barcelona.
The architectural aspects of the city are also worth reading. Besides, Robert Hughes is a very good writter.
I read it before, during and after a short visit to Barcelona and it helped me to understand a little more this awsome and diverse city.
Robert Hughes is a very amusing author (and obviously a difficult person). Being an art critic means never being afraid to voice your opinion (or any critic actually). This is an entertaining little book about the city he loves. A brief history, a quick look at the culture, and of course Gaudi. The book suffers from lack of illustration.

I'm hoping to go to Barcelona in the fall and am reading this book in preparation for that...and for reading Hughes' much bigger book on Barcelona.
Jes Pedroza
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living in a new city fills one with a special feeling of wonder and awe. Hughes takes this to a new height, giving the reader a special appreciation and reverence for the city of Barcelona. From Catalan food to traditional human-pyramid towers (castells) to architecture that you can find nowhere else on this planet, one is in for a fantastic adventure in Barcelona! Living here while reading this book gave me a greater sense of Catalan culture and their deep pride for thier magnificent city!
My library did not have a copy of his longer Barcelona book. This was just not enough for me. There are wonderful tidbits here, but when I reached the end I was left wanting a whole lot more. But if you don't have the time or patience for the original tome, this might be a reasonable introduction to Hughes' favorite city.
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I read Hughes' volume on Rome prior to my visit, so I was delighted to find this concise ode to Barcelona to prepare me for this summer's adventure. Now I"m contemplating the longer Barcelona work...but either way, I now have a basic appreciation for the history, art and culture of my next generation that would be hard to gain from a regular travel guide.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A slim knock-off of his decade earlier book Barcelona. I guess he submitted for a National Geographic series on different cities and places. Really, he just lifted passages from his earlier book, but if you want a much slenderer version of that 540 page book, try this one, but there are many fewer photographs so it's harder to follow when he's describing architecture or art without the photos.
Mar 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this before my trip to the Costa Brava, and while it did lead me to some great architectural treasures that I probably never would have visited -- the Palau de Musica Catalana and Santa Maria del Mar -- and it did give me a quick history of Catalonia -- I was hoping for more. Actually my evening at the Palau de Musica Catalana was the highpoint of my stay in Barcelona.
The city may not transcend its faults, but it does outweigh them. Perhaps it always has. “You are boastful and treacherous and vulgar,” wrote Joan Maragall, in the last lines of his “Ode to Barcelona.” But then, the cry of infatuated loyalty. “Barcelona! And with your sins, ours, ours! Our Barcelona, the great enchantress!” There is still ample truth in this.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This was the book I wished his earlier history, Barcelona, had been. More personal and engaging, reminds me of all the things I love about Barcelona and all the reasons I want to return again and again.
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The perfect accompaniment to a trip to Barcelona. Bring it on the plane. You'll have a fellow traveler who delights in this beautiful town and can tell you stories to deepen your appreciation of its sights.
May 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book for learning about this interesting city or as a guidebook. Well written by an expat who loves the city. Highly recommended if you are visiting this city.
Bill Tucker
May 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love all things Spain, though Barcelona is a little off the beaten path for me. Insightful, entertaining and informative>
May 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was enjoyable and interesting to learn more about the history but it felt slight. However, it was a good intro to Hughes' Barcelona and my curiosity is piqued enough to read the larger tome.
Fritz Galt
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great love poem to a city. Valuable for anyone visiting Catalonia, or for just getting to know about a once powerful and newly arisen corner of the world.
Anyone who ever visited Barcelona will love to reminisce with this book!
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Robert Studley Forrest Hughes, AO was an Australian art critic, writer and television documentary maker who has resided in New York since 1970. He was educated at St Ignatius' College, Riverview before going on to study arts and then architecture at the University of Sydney. At university, Hughes associated with the Sydney "Push" – a group of artists, writers, intellectuals and drinkers. Among the ...more
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“What little I knew of the city was that three decades before, in the name of the Spanish Republic, it had resisted General Franco (1892-1975) and paid a heavy, bitter price for it; that George Orwell, one of my literary heroes, had written a book about it called Homage to Catalonia; that in that book he had got most things right, but had been spectacularly wrong in dissing the admittedly very peculiar Antoni Gaudí, claimed by the French surrealists, who had designed that enormous penitential church seemingly made of melted candle wax and chicken guts.” 1 likes
“There was practically nothing on Catalan painting, though the world’s greatest surviving body of Romanesque frescoes, salvaged from decaying churches in the Ampurdan and the Pyrenees, was (and is) right there in the Museu d’Art de Catalunya up on Montjuïc.” 1 likes
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