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After World War II Norman Lewis returned to Spain and settled in the remote fishing village of Farol on what is now Costa Brava Voices of the Old Sea describes his three successive summers in that almost medieval community where life revolved around the seasonal sardine catches Alcade's bar and satisfying feuds with neighboring villages It's lucky Lewis was there when he was Soon after Spain was discovered by its neighbors in a prosperous northern Europe and the tourist tide that ensued flowed inexorably over the old ways of the town and its inhabitants


10 thoughts on “Voices of the Old Sea

  1. says:

    35 stars After three war years in the Army overseas I looked for the familiar in England but found change Perhaps it was the search for vanished times that drew me back to Spain which in some ways I knew better than my own country—a second homeland to be revisited when I could Here the past I suspected would have been embalmed and outside influence held at bay in a country absorbed in its domestic tragedyTravel writing has beckoned to me with its charms during recent years Honestly before joining Goodreads I thought ‘travel’ books were primarily those little Fodor’s travel guides one would pick up before venturing on an upcoming trip I really had no idea that there was an entire genre of narrative travel writing that could whisk you away to faraway places simply through the power of beautifully written words Since this discovery I have been adding ‘travel’ books to my mountainous pile at a rather swift rate Voices of the Old Sea is one of those books that lured me in with the promise of a journey to the Mediterranean coast of Spain The author Norman Lewis was apparently one of the renowned travel writers of his time mainly post World War II A British journalist who traveled and wrote extensively Lewis wrote this particular volume based on a period of three summers beginning in 1948 which he spent in the small coastal fishing village of what he called Farol From what I understand ‘Farol’ is a fictional name he devised in order to protect the identity of the real community In any case Farol was a town steeped in a culture that no longer exists today – rich in history and traditions that were uite interesting Actually I found that my visit to this coastal village was of a travel back in time rather than a destination vacation Lewis at first had difficulty making himself at home with the fishermen They didn’t necessarily welcome outsiders with open arms The men of Farol hoarded words as their children collected the coloured pebbles on the beach Eventually he found friendship with another outsider of sorts a young man named Sebastian who happened to have a link with one of the powerful women of the community – the Grandmother Soon Lewis found himself offered hospitality at the local drinking establishment where he came to learn many of the secrets and customs of the community He went out on fishing expeditions thus learning of the arduous work involved in this type of livelihood The most fascinating part of this piece for me was the rather rapid transformation of this town from that of remote fishing village to that of a fashionable tourist attraction With the arrival of an influential and likely shady businessman Farol became the hot spot for French German Scandinavian and later English travelers seeking the beauty of a beach retreat The people of Farol found themselves no longer gaining sustenance from the always fluctuating fishing economy but to earning a living from the influx of foreign currency Lewis seems to mourn the loss of the town’s identity while at the same time perhaps recognizing that the people will now have a reliable source of income Certainly I can understand both sides and it is thanks to books like this that remind us of those irretrievable times gone by I’ve rated this book 35 stars mainly because I appreciated very much what I learned from it At times it felt disjointed – probably due to the author’s back and forth travel to Farol When I’m reading a travel narrative I’m looking for the lovely descriptive prose that paints a picture of the landscape This better illustrated the people and the metamorphosis of an entire way of life – which is fascinating in itself but is a matter of expectations I suppose I didn’t so much travel to Spain but to a place in history Keeping this in mind anyone with an interest in such topics could easily enjoy this book I’m going to try Naples ’44 next which is Lewis’s masterpiece of sorts One thing is certain Here we have always been and here whatever happens we shall remain listening to the voices of the old sea


  2. says:

    Judging by the scant number of reviews on Goodreads Norman Lewis is virtually forgotten Yet he was one of the best travel writers of the 20th century Here he recounts three summer seasons spent in a fishing village on the Costa Brava just after World War II Artfully he uses this device to show us first the poverty stricken and almost medieval lifestyle of the fishermen and their families During the second season a local crook cum businessman opens a hotel and begins the gradual transformation of the village into a tasteless tourist trap amid much resentment and resistance; the fishermen continue obstinately to fish the dwindling stocks even when it is pointed out that they can earn far taking tourists on a single boat trip than in a whole season of fishing By the third season the rot has set in; the fishermen's wives are working as chambermaids at the hotel and even Lewis's friend Sebastian has had to uell his wanderlust and become a waiter Repressive Spanish laws now only apply to Spaniards; foreign tourists can do as they likeI never knew the Spanish Mediterranean coast before it was covered from end to end with concrete The Costa Brava is inaccessible enough to be less spoilt than the rest but there are no fishing villages like Farol any and all the village sea fronts are lined with hotels Of course the Spanish are materially far better off and have far freedom than was the case 60 years ago when near starvation and repression were the norm but still much has been lost


  3. says:

    In the late 1940s English writer Norman Lewis travelled to the remote Spanish fishing village of Farol to experience and record the old ways of Spanish fisherman and witness the passing of an old order that had lasted largely unchanged for centuries He spent a few months there each year for three years and witnessed huge changes as the Spanish fishing culture gave way slowly to the onslaught of mass tourism The author described two villages rather than one the village of the cat people by the sea they keep cats to keep off the rats and finish off the bits of fish left over from their fishing and the village of the dog people a few miles inland where the people hunt in the forest and grow crops The two villages need each other and trade together even though they don't like each other very much but both villages will be eually affected by the changes that are comingI like travel books I like learning about different places and also about different times too This does both Some travel books can be uite dry though full of beautiful description but somehow stagnant without narrative or movement This is not one of those The characters really come to life and even though the story is told over only three years such a lot happens and it is really interesting waiting to find out what will happen in the next year This is just one little story in one small place but you can really see how there would have been hundreds of other stories just like it up and down the Spanish coastI read this book while on holiday in Spain not far from where the book is set Farol is a fictional name and no one knows exactly where the village was but it was in the Costa Brava region This really added something to the book for me I could see and feel the final result of the changes described in this book all around me I don't see it is either good or bad but do feel a sadness for what was lost This was a really good book and Norman Lewis is obviously an excellent writer because as you read it it makes you feel like you are there experiencing that time and that place getting a glimpse of a world that has gone and is never coming back It is all the remarkable because though it seems like eons away it really wasn't that long ago within the lifetime of many people alive today A really good book well worth reading


  4. says:

    ‘Voices of the Old Sea’ is a humane and affectionate portrait of life in the obscure Catalonian fishing village of Farol shortly after the Second World War The tone and content reminded me rather of My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell as it reads with sympathetic amusement and both a simultaneous sense of solidarity and detachment Lewis is gradually accepted by the villagers over a period of years and goes fishing with them whilst acknowledging that he will always be an outsider He documents the environmental disasters that damage the livelihoods of Farol and its inland neighbour Sort The villagers are often referred to rather brilliantly as the Cat People and the Dog People As the forests die and the fish prove elusive a wealthy black marketeer moves in and tried to turn the area into a tourist resort The villagers’ affronted and confused responses are both funny and full of pathos The isolation of Farol cannot survive modern times so Lewis’ portrait is a bittersweet one It is lovely to read though and like the best travel writing immerses you in a different world


  5. says:

    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 inlandYet 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 richSo true so true For More on Spain


  6. says:

    Could be one of the best travel writers I have read


  7. says:

    Recommended by Linda this is a fantastic book It fits in the same vein as another favorite book Let It Come Down


  8. says:

    Best travel writer of the 20th century


  9. says:

    Lewis' account of his stay over three seasons in a small SpanishCatalan fishing village in the immediate aftermath of WWII A lot of local color and a somewhat bleak view of the rise of tourism in the region The Costa Brava Those readers who demand fidelity may be disappointed; outside reading has indicated that the author leaves out some important points such as that his family lived there with him and the name of the village is a pseudonym


  10. says:

    Classic travel novel superb