Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country's Hidden Past
1 Jan 2006
Faber & Faber
The appearance - sixty years after that war ended - of mass graves containing victims of Franco's death squads has finally broken what Spaniards call 'the pact of forgetting'. At this charged moment, Giles Tremlett embarked on a journey around Spain - and through Spanish history. Spaniards, he found, had tried to wipe both the Civil War and Franco from their memory. The graves were 'secretos a voces' - whispered secrets everyone knew about but did not discuss. History, Tremlett discovered, was a tinder-box of disagreements for Spaniards. Who caused the Civil War? Why do Basque terrorists kill? Why do Catalans hate Madrid? Did the islamist bombers who killed 190 people in 2004 dream of a return to Spain's Moorish past? The ghosts of the past were everywhere. Tremlett's journey was also an attempt to make sense of his personal experience of Spaniards. Why do they dislike authority figures, but are cowed by a doctor's white coat? How had women embraced feminism without men noticing? What binds gypsies, jails and flamenco? Why do Spaniards go to plastic surgeons, donate their organs, visit brothels or take cocaine more than other Europeans? Finding answers to those questions involved travelling some strange and colourful byroads.