Under Franco's regime, it was declared as gospel truth that Madrid and Old Castile were the spiritual and cultural heartland of Spain, and peripheral cities and cultures of the Iberian peninsula must bow to that truth. Barcelona, however--la gran encisera
, "the great enchantress"--always saw things rather differently. The earliest area of Spain to be colonised by the Romans, the capital of Catalonia is fiercely independent, somehow Spanish and not-Spanish, and most mysteriously of all, has been at the forefront of modernity, especially modern art and architecture, ahead of any other European city you could name with the possible exception of Paris. It is this Barcelona that fascinates Robert Hughes most, and he in turn fascinates us with his enthusiasm and knowledge of the place. He thrillingly evokes the cosmopolitanism and openness of Barcelona--qualities, he says, that derive inevitably from its status as a great Mediterranean port. And he is brilliant on perhaps the most exciting modern architect of all, Antoni Gaudi, the creator of the (still unfinished) Church of La Sagrada Familia, now as much an icon of the city as the Opera House in Sydney or the Statue of Liberty in New York. -- Christopher Hart
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"Nobody has ever represented [Barcelona's] character more powerfully, or illustrated its claims to self-destiny more persuasively, than has Robert Hughes in this monumental work" (Jan Morris Los Angeles Times
"Whether untangling the unlikely legends of Wilfred the Hairy or tangling with the likes of Antoni Gaudi, Hughes has shaped Catalan art, architecture and politics into the ultimate guidebooks" (David Newnham Guardian
"A wonderful book, by far the best yet to have appeared in the current flood of books on Spain - and one that fills a genuine gap" (Martin Gayford Sunday Telegraph
"Barcelona is unlikely to be rewarded with a better history than this. Robert Hughes is a master of the big canvas, scooping up the detail of social, economic, political and artistic life and producing images of captivating richness" (Sunday Times