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By V. S. Pritchett

In spring 1927 V.S Pritchett got down to stroll three hundred miles throughout Spain. the rustic used to be virtually thoroughly remoted, and Pritchett describes a undying kingdom at the cusp of being riven by means of civil struggle, populated through a superb collection of characters.

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Sample text

I hurled a reminder of my existence at him. ‘Patience! ’ he cried. ‘Soon, soon—I suppose you—came by the train and—’ He was asleep. ’ ‘Fill up the form,’ said he. I filled up the form with a pen that scratched like rending calico. He was asleep again. After half an hour a woman unloaded a big iron stove from a donkey, and installing the stove outside the fonda door, lit a charcoal fire and began to fry churros. Passers-by stopped to watch or to eat what were virtually long strips of doughnut fried in oil.

I was bold enough to ask the carabinero. I said, ‘I see the flag is at half-mast in the town. ’ He turned on me, and his eyes were musingly half-closed like a cat’s. There was a darkness like the bloom of grapes in them, and whether the glitter was of infinite sadness or the token of an ancient irony I could not tell. ’ I remembered then that it was Good Friday. Chapter III. The Dark Woman Running When I heard those words of the carabinero I knew at last I had touched Spain. We steamed out of La Coruña in a deepening blue heat, hot Spain lying to the east of us, its torrid, brown and sapphire slabs of land beyond a raw sea.

For a few minutes a bare hill of sand came to life as a troop of miniature cavalry petered out of the fort on top of it and cantered down the hill on to a road where they raised a cottony cloud of dust. They were riding towards the town. The American, in an attempt to buttonhole the ‘buck,’ had been buttonholed by him instead. The ‘buck,’ flushed by his recital of the ‘Burial of Sir John Moore,’ and explaining with some rhetoric that the British were never so glorious as when they were defeated, drifted to the story of his own life, and told how he was the Conservative whip for Blankshire, where his party had been gloriously and splendidly defeated for the last thirty-five years.

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