The Red Manuscript (el Manuscrito Carmesí). Author: Antonio Gala
No visit to Granada (Spain) can be fulfilling without reading this book beforehand. Antonio Gala masterfully takes us through the life of the last moor king of Granada, Boabdil, and the tragedy of a life linked to both the love for his wife and children, and the love to Granada. In Boabdil's eyes (or Galas' eyes should we say) Granada intensifies its colour and mysteries, becomes a living being that ends up covering the reader and makes him feel sad at the end of the book, for making love to Granada is not possible. In this book, an aging Boabdil already in exile in Fez (Morocco) tells us, in a tragic and romantic tone, how he grew up surrounded by beauty in the magnificent 'La Alhambra'. How he learnt to love the gardens, the birds, the people. How love was exuded from stones, flowers and fountains, and how he was touched by this magic spell of senses. How tragedy and happiness usually take place at the same time. How a human being like him, debilitated by his sentitive up-bringing, was thrown into the throne of a kingdom where, in the blink of an eye, the smell of fruits could turn into the smell of blood (for the story of Boabdil is written with the 'war for Granada' (c. 1482-1492) in the background). Boabdil's story takes us through the last years of Moorish domination in southern Spain (known as Al-Andalus for the moors, Andalucia for the Spanish). During this time, he alternatively had to fight his own father, his uncle, his mother, the kings of Spain, and the excitable people of Granada; and usually to all of them at the same time. During his first field battle against the Spanish, he was caught and imprisoned. After lengthy negotations a truce was signed with the kings of Spain, whereby he would regain his freedom in exchange of his own children being taken away from him (and remained separated for several years). He is a puppet in the hands of his demanding and ambitious mother (who lost favour of her husband for a younger concubine). He was given the nickname of ?Zogoiby? (the unfortunate) at birth, and the prediction seemed to pursue him for life. He lost everything he was given, including the city of Granada, that he had to surrender in humiliating circumstances to the Spanish kings (the tragedy of this event becomes magnified by history, as few kings can put a date and time to the exact moment when they lost their kingdom). He was forced to depart with his family and granted lands to live somewhere else. When leaving Granada across the mountains, he turned round to have a last sight of his city, and tears of sadness came down his face. His mother then resentfully nagged him with these devastating words: ?cry as a woman what you can not keep as a man?. After loosing his kingdom he however regained his family (his beautiful wife Morayma and their children). Happiness lasted little, as she died shortly after. Boabdil then left Spain for good, and travelled to Morocco where he would live long after. This rather romantic view of the life and times of Boabdil is somehow the spirit that remains in the streets of Granada; tragic, beautiful, eternal. The spirit of Granada comes out of the walls and stones in its streets as you walk by. You don?t know why, but you?ll feel it, as I did.