Books set in Barcelona are always a delight to read; this vibrant capital of Catalonia, is a city that has captured the hearts of countless visitors and inspired numerous writers over the years. Its unique blend of history, culture, and stunning architecture has set the stage for a multitude of captivating stories.
I’ll take you on a literary journey through the enchanting streets of this magnificent city, exploring incredible books set in Barcelona. These books set in Barcelona not only provide a vivid sense of place but also delve into the complex layers of Barcelona’s character, making them essential reads for any book lover or traveller seeking to uncover the city’s literary soul.
Books Set in Barcelona
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
A popular one among books set in Barcelona. Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘Cemetery of Lost Books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Julian Carax.
But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find.
Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from the book, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s work in order to burn them.
What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind…
The Cathedral of the Sea – Ildefonso Falcones
A masterful epic of love, war, treason, plague, famine, witchcraft, anti-Semitism and the Inquisition among books set in Barcelona.
14th-century Spain, the medieval city of Barcelona is enjoying a golden age of prosperity. Its humblest inhabitants are building, stone by stone, a magnificent church to overlook their harbour. This is the Cathedral of the Sea: a church to be built for the people by the people.
In its shadow, Arnau, a young serf on the run from his feudal lord, struggles to earn his freedom. After famine, plague and thwarted love, Arnau’s fortunes begin to turn when King Pedro makes him a baron as a reward for his courage in battle. But he is also forced to marry Eleonor, a ward of the King whom he does not love. His newfound status excites jealousy from his friends who plot his downfall with devastating consequences. Arnau’s journey from slave to nobleman is the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn Church against State and brother against brother …
The Time of the Doves – Mercè Rodoreda
Mercè Rodoreda’s poignant tale of a young woman’s life during the Spanish Civil War is a lyrical and haunting exploration of love and loss. The novel portrays Barcelona’s transformation during a tumultuous period in its history. An interesting one among books set in Barcelona.
The Invisible City – Emili Rosales
Emili Rosell, the young owner of one of Barcelona’s top galleries, receives an old manuscript written by an Italian architect about the ‘Invisible City’ – an ambitious project dreamt up by King Charles III to build an alternative capital city in the Ebro delta.
The manuscript tells of a lost masterpiece by the Venetian painter Tiepolo, and the site of the Invisible City is where Emili used to play as a child; drawn in by these factors, he is plunged into a fascinating extinct world. Juxtaposing the eighteenth-century royal court life and the contemporary art world – both with a similar share of intrigue, politics and romance – “The Invisible City” is a gripping historical mystery and a compelling examination of the forces of power and love among books set in Barcelona.
The Shadow Lines – Amitav Ghosh
A wide-eyed boy growing up in suburban Calcutta in the 1960s experiences the world through the eyes of others – an intoxicating older cousin, a grandmother who weaves stories from the past and a family in London whose lives are intertwined with his. When a seemingly random act of violence threatens his vision of the world, he begins piecing together events for himself, and in the process unravels secrets with devastating consequences.
Set in Calcutta and London and spanning generations from the outbreak of the Second World War to the late twentieth century, The Shadow Lines is a haunting novel from one of the world’s greatest writers among books set in Barcelona.
The Sins of the Cities of the Plain – Jack Saul
The Sins of the Cities of the Plain (1881) is an erotic novel among books set in Barcelona, attributed to Irish prostitute Jack Saul. Published by William Lazenby, a prominent printer of Victorian erotica, The Sins of the Cities of the Plain is considered to be one of the first works of literature dedicated to homosexuality in the English language. “‘Saul, Jack Saul, sir, of Lisle Street, Leicester Square, and ready for a lark with a free gentleman at any time. What was it made you take a fancy to me? Did you observe any particularly interesting points about your humble servant?’ as he slyly looked down towards the prominent part I have previously mentioned.”
Having met by chance at Leicester Square, Jack Saul, a successful prostitute―colloquially known as a “Mary-Ann” or “rentboy”―agrees to accompany Mr. Cambon to his home at the Cornwall Mansions. After sharing a meal, the two men get down to business, exploring their young bodies and devoting themselves to pleasure. Curious about Jack’s past, Cambon offers him money to share the story of his life. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Jack Saul’s The Sins of the Cities of the Plain is a classic work of Victorian erotic fiction reimagined for modern readers among books set in Barcelona.
The Summer of Dead Toys – Antonio Hill
When the death of a young witness in a case of human trafficking and voodoo provokes the normally calm Inspector Salgado to beat someone up, he is swiftly removed from the project. Instead, he is sent to investigate a teenager’s fall to his death in one of Barcelona’s uptown areas.
As Salgado begins to uncover the inconvenient truths behind the city’s most powerful families, two seemingly unsolvable cases are set to implode under the hot Barcelona sun. An exciting one among books set in Barcelona.
Barcelona Dreaming – Rupert Thomson
The stories are narrated, in turn, by an English woman who runs a gift shop, an alcoholic jazz pianist, and a translator tormented by unrequited love, all of whose lives will be changed forever. Underpinning the novel, and casting a long shadow, is a crime committed against a young Moroccan immigrant.
Exploring themes of addiction, racism, celebrity, immigration, and self-delusion, and fuelled by a longing for the unattainable and a nostalgia for what is about to be lost, Barcelona Dreaming, among books set in Barcelona, is a love letter to one of the world’s most beautiful cities and a powerful and poignant fable for our uncertain times.
Homage to Barcelona – Colm Tóibín
Colm Tóibín’s Homage to Barcelona celebrates one of Europe’s greatest cities – a cosmopolitan hub of vibrant architecture, art, culture and nightlife. It moves from the story of the city’s founding and its huge expansion in the nineteenth century to the lives of Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Casals and Dalí. It also explores the history of Catalan nationalism, the tragedy of the Civil War, the Franco years and the transition from dictatorship to democracy which Colm Tóibín witnessed in the 1970s.
Written with deep knowledge and affection, Homage to Barcelona is a sensuous and beguiling portrait of a unique Mediterranean port and an adopted home among books set in Barcelona.
Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe, a multilingual capital of an autonomous region that longs to be independent of Spain. The city is famous for its painters, modernist architecture, style of football, and its history, but as Peter Bush reveals it has always been a major centre of literary talent and creativity.
Barcelona Tales presents a selection of newly translated short stories by 14 writers, many of them Catalan. The stories explore the themes of migration and class conflict in a city renowned in world literature from the day rural innocents Don Quixote and Sancho Panza visited its streets at the beginning of the seventeenth-century, and witnessed the wonders of the printing press and the cruelties of slavery. Together, they open up the city in ironic, tragic, and lyrical ways, inviting readers to explore fictional lives and literary styles that reflect the dynamic, conflict-ridden character and history of this great European city. For the short story lovers among books set in Barcelona.
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Are there any books set in Barcelona you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?