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The Spirit of Spain brims with aperçus and revelations, many of them controversial, others startling, all engrossing. From Roman Hispania to the most recent Spanish trends, Professor Raley narrates the unique story of Spanish civilization. Examples of his original thinking include a "phenomenology of Spanish history," a new theory of the Spanish Renaissance, new concepts of Spanish patriotism and nationalism, and a reinterpretation of Spanish "Stoicism." As the book unfolds he also takes many sidelong looks into Hispanic America and offers a new explanation of Spain's relationship to Moslem Al-Andalus and modern Europe. The book culminates in a radical analysis of "Quixotic life" and its unsuspected significance for the post-modern age.
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INTRODUCTION by Harold Raley
For centuries Spain has been a country foreigners love to hate and Spaniards hate to love. Yet visitors swarm to it by the millions, seduced by the very things they publicly decry. It may be the most visited and most reviled country in modern times. Few nations have been more studied and probably none more persistently misunderstood.
My personal introduction to Spain was also paradoxical. From my earliest university days several of my professors taught me that Spain was a land known for glorious beginnings and inglorious endings. To hear them tell it, it was an embarrassment to modernity, a country done in by religious fanaticisms and medieval backwardness.
But the more I listened to these gloomy assessments of Spain, the more this strange country attracted me. In my commonsense ignorance I asked these teachers why they bothered with a civilization they found so deficient. They responded to my naïve questions by telling me that the Hispanic world is huge and that the Spanish language is culturally and commercially important; and, second, that Spanish and Hispanic literatures are worth studying despite creative gaps and eras of mediocrity.
I was unconvinced by these truisms. By explaining everything they explained nothing. My personal imperative then became clear: I had to discover for myself the key to this mysterious Spanish Spirit. In one form or another the task would run like a thread through my life. Not that the work is complete. Far from it; I have learned only enough to realize how much I do not, nor likely ever will, know completely.
For the reasons alluded to above, the views that I shall express in this book did not develop in simple linear stages. That might have been true had my starting point been one of simple ignorance about Spain and the Hispanic world. But that was not the case. From the first I learned many things about Spain; the problem was that many of them later proved false or else were cast in a false context that distorted their meaning.
Intellectual honesty obliged me, then, to return to the most basic assumptions, to reexamine and justify anew nearly everything I had learned about Spain. There were moments of confusion as my earlier bookish facts crumbled one by one under closer scrutiny and visits to Spain itself. But there was a gain in this loss. Finally free of old clichés, I was ready to see Spain with my own eyes.
The problem now took a different slant. I faced the moral obligation of trying to justify at each stage the new directions I took. It proved to be a lasting injunction; this urgency to see things for myself and rethink them in ways I could personally absorb has always acted at the core of my Iberian meditations, more, has generally determined and justified their course. Perhaps this is why I took so readily and naturally to the ancient Spanish intuition that knowledge must be lived in order to be truly real.
I asked myself the same question I had put to my teachers many years earlier: why should I devote so much time to Spain? Was it misdirected curiosity on my part, as some have objected to me, or are there more transcendent issues at stake? This book is a response to these questions.
There were problems with this posture. Though not an “expert” on Spain, I knew enough about Spanish studies to realize that most professional Hispanists would reject my theses. (I remind myself constantly that contemporary hispanism often has very little to do with Spain.) Yet even though my views were unpopular, unlike Aladdin’s mother I was never tempted to exchange what I believed to be the magic lamp of truth for fashionable but false substitutes.
It would be impossible to acknowledge all the debts I have accumulated in the making of this book. Impressionistic scenes from Hispanic cities and natural panoramas, lasting friendships and passing acquaintances with Spaniards of every condition, travels in several lands and further journeys through many books, all these memories crowd about me now and clamor for their place in this writing. I cannot do them justice. The best I can manage here is to say that I alone am responsible for any errors or distortions their image may suffer.
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Book Description Halcyon Pr Ltd, 2001. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0970605498