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Homage to Barcelona

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  580 ratings  ·  72 reviews
This book celebrates one of Europe's greatest cities -- a cosmopolitan city of vibrant architecture and art, great churches and museums, intriguing port life and extravagant nightclubs, restaurants and bars. It moves from the story of the city's founding, and huge expansion in the nineteenth century, to the lives of Gaudi, Miro, Casals and Dali. It also examines the histor ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published (first published August 20th 1990)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  580 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an alternative/non-tourist view to Barcelona that describes the city and its history through its artists, ahead of its politicians. To start with, you have the heavy weights Miró, Picasso, Dalí, and Gaudí - all native sons of Catalonia. The chapters on the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime are informative and let you know Barcelona is also a city that's been scarred.

I'm Taiwanese, so I really get the whole deal with not able to speak your language under someone else's regime. The r
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The devil looks down to Barcelona. The city is a bowl surrounded by hills: Montjuic, Monterols, Putget, la Creueta, Collserola, Tibidabo. The devil looks down from Tibidabo where he brought Jesus, during His forty-day fast in the desert. This is where he tempted Him with all the kingdoms of the world. 'To thee I will give: Tibidabo.' And he showed Him Barcelona."(p.166)

With Colm Toibin's 'Homage to Barcelona' you will have a devilishly good time on your next trip to one of Europe's greatest cit
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reviews
Reading Colm Tóibín’s travelogue-cum-memoir Barcelona while I was actually in Barcelona was an immeasurably pleasurable experience. This is a truly wonderful book about a truly wonderful European city.

To read my review in full, please visit my blog.
Justin Offermann
Oct 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
A well-written, often fascinating portrayal of Barcelona, with an emphasis on artistic and political themes. Likely a bit idiosyncratic for some people's tastes, but Toibin has a great eye for detail and in just over two hundred pages manages to impart a sense of the city and the region that captures its struggles and heartbreaks, opportunities and triumphs. If you're planning or thinking of traveling to Barcelona, this book is definitely worth a read. And if you're not planning on it, you migh ...more
Phil Kurthausen
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rooted in Colm Tóibín's personal experience of the city this is a beautifully written exploration of time, place, history and memory, both personal in CT's case and collective for the Catalans.

If you love history, art and the power of prose to transport you, and the writer, to times past then you will enjoy this book. If you have never been to Barcelona it will make you want to go. If like me, you live here, it will open your eyes to parts of the city you may take for granted.
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spain, 2013
Solid, though a bit dated - he writes just as the 92 Olympics are starting and it's very grounded in that time, all "I hope this doesn't fuck the town up too much!" so that's both amusing and frustrating. But chapters on earlier history are well done. ...more
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: location
I had the good fortune to read this while visiting Barcelona - a brilliant combination. I didn't have time to visit monuments or museums so wasn't able to fully appreciate the chapters on Gaudi, Miró or Picasso, but the chapters on the Catalan temperament, identity, history and restaurant snobbery were an enlightening background. I especially appreciated the description of the Spanish civil war, and our walk around the (now tackily commercial) Barri Gotic was much improved by being able to imagi ...more
Apr 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Architecture, art, politics and society all viewed up close by an Irishman in Catalonia. This book had been suggested to me as a long-after post script to Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" I didn't make the same connection, I wish that I had read this book before my last visit to Barcelona, I would have looked for the remains of Roman architecture and sought out Miro as well as Picasso. ...more
Grant Brookes
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was originally published in 1990, but I read the updated edition which came out in 2002.

There are a few places where the revisions haven't been made smoothly - where past events are described as yet to happen. But honestly, that's the only criticism I could make.

The book is superb. A blend of personal memoir, art criticism, history, political analysis and cultural studies, it is probably best described as a "biography of Barcelona, and of Catalonia". And it's beautifully written, fro
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I look forward to visiting Barcelona later this year and reading this book has given me a framework to think about the city.
In 1965, living in Madrid, my wife and I decided to drive to southern France to visit her Armenian cousins. A French friend of ours, learning of our trip, asked if she could tag along. At that time the journey by highway was long and arduous. To make the most of our vacation time, we drove through the night, arriving in Barcelona in the early morning.

We stopped at a small café for a light breakfast. Neither my wife nor I spoke French and our French friend did not speak English so Castilian was o
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was overall very good. Toibin's writing is accessible, nostalgic and colorful. It is jam-packed with history, politics ( particularly around the Franco fascism) and architectural references; really wished they had included some map illustrations with it. It is not a quick read and requires your attention, even though it is a slim book. (The version I have was "updated" as of 2002. It is hard to find in libraries; had to special order on Amazon.) That said, wish the writer could have up ...more
Jerry Delaney
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is not a travel book, although a tourist can learn of neighborhoods he might want to visit. But it's more a love letter to the city and an investigation of memory. I picked this up in the Gaudi shop in the Pedrera and it was the perfect book to read on my trip.

The book covers the lives of many of Barcelona's artists and politicians. The political history was especially interesting to me because I ended up with a much deeper understanding of the Catalonian grievances and their current desir
Patrick Santana
Feb 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Had difficulty getting through this. It's almost academic in tone: lots of dates, street names, details, references to minor historical figures, etc. The essays seem more of a collection of disparate pieces, rather than a fused vision. Anecdotal and particular, rather than unified and sweeping in conception. For some readers, this will have appeal (more so if you already know Barcelona). For others like myself, this wasn't an enjoyable intro to the city. ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Toibin is one of my favorite writers. Barcelona is one of my favorite cities. We both saw La Dolce Vita in Barcelona during the Summer of 1981. Toibin's homage comes from a man who learned Catalan, who lived in Barcelona during the Franco Years, the beginnings of the new era, and foresaw the problems of Catalan Nationalism. While he and I shared the summer of 1981 in Barcelona, his Barcelona opened my eyes to what I missed. I saw the Barcelona of Guadi and Picasso, but missed Miro. He outli ...more
Nicholas Story, solicitor
This had all of the makings of a classic: a literary titan writing about one of the world's great cities. Unfortunately it was rather disappointing, falling into the chasm between being a travel book and/or a work of art. There is far too much about Toibin's artistic heroes (Picasso, Miro, Casals, Gaudi) and his anti-hero (Dali).

Furthermore, it was written in 1990. The date is, in many ways, a double-edged sword. It works very well in his description of how the city was coping with the then rec
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book, received as a Christmas present in anticipation of a forthcoming trip to Barcelona. Unfortunately I found it to be mostly descriptive, with little analysis, personal reflection, or emotional response. The description itself is also not quite detailed enough to call the book a history. Perhaps such a link does not exist, but I had been anticipating that there may be an exploration of the connections between Irish and Catalonian linguistic and political struggles, b ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
This volume falls into cracks, getslost in the side lanes.

Part memoir, part history, part guide to special places, secret treasures, but even as it has been updated one can't be sure what is current and what is not. Are the various bars and dives and restaurants still there, or no? The reminiscences don't present a compelling story in themselves, they pale beside, for example, Nooteboom's story of his travels throughout Spain. No, the best bits, I'd say, are the historical portraits, Barcelona a
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I recently spent four days in Barcelona and read most of this book after returning from this incredible city. The book helped add so much from what I learned while visiting the city. It also gave some historical perspective to the Catalonia independence movement.

The book was first published in 1990 but was updated with information on the 1992 Olympics. While the book is older, so is the city and most of what you read still exists.The book is loaded with many references, which you may want to goo
Joanne Kelleher
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this book in preparation for a trip to Barcelona. It is a bit dated (I read the 1992 edition) and things have changed since then, but the recent swell of Catalan nationalism is easily understood after reading this book. There is a lot of history with many names, dates, and details - more than you might expect in a travel book - but it served to provide a context for the current situation in Spain. Tòibìn also wrote about Gaudì, Picasso, Mirò, and Dalì in a way that made the reader feel as ...more
Anna Baillie-Karas
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful guide to Barcelona. Colm Toibin has a deep knowledge of its history & art and devotes chapters to each of Picasso, Gaudi, Dali & Miro, + the civil war among other things. It's not as heavyweight as the Robert Hughes nor as lucid as Jan Morris (Toibin is a fiction writer first & foremost) but better in a way because he has lived there on & off since the 70s so he gives us insights into its people & memorable anecdotes. ...more
Kristopher Powell
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic history of Barcelona, written in an incredibly accessible and enjoyable fashion. I read it while I was there and it oriented me in the city and explained so much about Catalan culture and the city itself. I guess it's a history, but I couldn't put it down like it was a fantastic novel. Not only should it be a must read for anyone visiting the city, I have found a favorite new author. ...more
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have lived in Barcelona for more than 30 years, and thought I knew the city and its history fairly well, but learned so many new things from this book about Barcelona's politics, art, literature and history. Of interest, Tóibín talks in depth and from various angles about the independence issue that is always present in Catalan society, but he does not take sides. ...more
Cecilia Peartree
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
It's probably a bit unfair of me to have given this 3 stars as I didn't read a huge amount of it - it just wasn't quite what I expected, being a very personal account and not as factual as I had imagined. ...more
Jose Perez
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I sped read this ahead of my trip to Barcelona. Yeah, a bit dated (released in 1990?) but it has its moments. Despite recounting a 1980’s Barcelona that is far different from the safer Catalan city of today, I’d recommend Tóibín’s homage over a guidebook any time.
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fantastic, heartfelt outsider's view through the history of the city. I only wish he'd write a update that takes us through all that has changed in the aftermath of the 1992 Olympics, where the original book ended. ...more
Lisa Taylor
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Such an interesting book to read or take with you to read if you are travelling to Barcelona.
Louise Miller
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Forget the Guidebooks. Take this with you next time in Barcelona and fins some alternative places. Not so much a homage - more of a love letter to this stunning, uniquely European city.
Alex Dimaio
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read it again after my trip to Barcelona. What a beautiful city.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
City steeped in electric dream.
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Colm Tóibín FRSL, is an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, and poet. Tóibín is currently Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University in Manhattan and succeeded Martin Amis as professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester.

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