Read Voices of the Old Sea by Norman Lewis Online


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 wheAfter 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 more prosperous northern Europe, and the tourist tide that ensued flowed inexorably over the old ways of the town and its inhabitants....

Title : Voices of the Old Sea
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780786716906
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Voices of the Old Sea Reviews

  • Joseph
    2019-05-05 04:28

    Voices of the Old Sea by Norman Lewis is an account of his time in village of Farol on the Costa Brava in Spain during the 1950s. Lewis is the author of many travel books and was particularly fascinated by primitive cultures in the modern world. He wrote on Indonesia, tribes in India, and the effect of missionary work in Latin America. Lewis spends three summers in Farol and documents his time there. Usually it is fiction that requires you to suspend your disbelief; here it is non-fiction. The reader almost feels like he or she is in a Spanish version of Tortilla Flat or Cannery Row. Farol is a town that struggles to make a living by fishing. Superstition abounds in the town. No leather was allowed anywhere the fishing fleet, which in itself is barely functional. Motorized boats have been cannibalized to the point that the few boats that run barely do. The boats are named with pagan references that government officials make the fishermen cover up and rename. Farol is a single commodity town and fishing in itself is at subsistence level. So important is the fishing that locals turn to a magician who can smell out the tuna. Animals are not killed unless there is good reason. A man shooting rats because they might carry the plague is told to stop and told once there is plague then the rats could be killed. Killing them for no reason would not be tolerated, but sending a message is different though. When dolphins are snagged in fishing nets, they are not killed; they are wounded and released to show the other dolphins what would happen to them if they decided to get snagged in the fisher's nets. Cats have the run of Farol, and it is know as the cat village. Sort is an adjoining town, known as the dog town. Sort is on its own hard times with the decline of the cork industry and relies on subsistence agriculture. The two villages have their own feud. Life is further complicated by Muga who want to bring tourism to the Farol. Villagers fear that the foreigners staring out at the water from the shore would ruin the fishing. Voices of the Old Sea is a fun read. It reads like fiction with nearly unbelievable events and characters so colorful that they seem they could they could only come from the authors imagination. Lewis' growing attachment to the village and the process of his acceptance makes for an interesting read. A very good book for all.

  • Steve Haywood
    2019-05-16 04:44

    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 equally affected by the changes that are coming.I like travel books, I like learning about different places and also about different times too. This does both. Some travel books can be quite 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 coast.I 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 more 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.

  • Veronica
    2019-05-04 04:33

    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 more 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 quell his wanderlust and become a waiter. Repressive Spanish laws now only apply to Spaniards; foreign tourists can do as they like.I 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 more, and all the village sea-fronts are lined with hotels. Of course, the Spanish are materially far better off, and have far more freedom, than was the case 60 years ago, when near-starvation and repression were the norm, but still, much has been lost.

  • Anna
    2019-05-22 05:43

    ‘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.

  • Sandra Danby
    2019-04-26 09:39

    Farol, north of Palamos on the Costa Brava, in the late 1940s, was a village of poor fishermen, wild mangy cats and entrenched traditions. Into this isolated community arrives Norman Lewis. Voices of the Old Sea is his account of three fishing seasons spent in the village, from the first sardines in March, the tunny in summer, to the last sardine shoals in October. He witnesses the arrival of tourism and the disappearance of old traditions as the villagers first resist then submit to such overwhelming modernities as a clean beach, new sea wall, hotel rooms with porcelain toilets, and incomprehensible French and German holidaymakers.The final sign of acceptance of change is when the fishermen's wives, formerly responsible for raising the village chickens, get dressed up in their finery for interviews as chambermaids at the new hotel. So employed, they earn more pesetas a day than their husbands.This is a gentle tale, lovingly told. Moments of sadness and tragedy are mixed delicately with comic stories of the eccentric villagers, who come to accept Lewis with less suspicion. It is a glimpse of a lost time but which still retains traces of modern Spain today. Excellent.For more about our life in Andalucía, see www.notesonaspanishvalley.comRead more about my thoughts on books and writing at

  • Paul Read
    2019-05-05 01:52

    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 inland.Yet 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 rich".So true, so true. For More on Spain:

  • Tara
    2019-04-28 08:53

    Norman Lewis is an incredible storyteller. I found myself having to check that that this was not infact fiction. I love how he describes a people so resistant to change, how he himself was treated with suspicion as an outsider. However, he managed to get close enough to know these people, to live as one of them for a time and to record their experiences and stories. It seems as though nothing could happen in this sleepy fishing village but Lewis manages to find the extraordinary in the ordinary and it is a beautifully descriptive enjoyable tale.

  • Dcsinden
    2019-04-26 07:36

    Norman Lewis writes with a consumate ease and transports you back to a spain that is on the cusp of turning from a land of near feudalism to one of and opportunity though (still under Francos rule) they seem to have been simplier times though poverty & hardship were common place. If you havent read much "travel literature" before you could much worse than start here .

  • Flora
    2019-05-12 04:30

    Could be one of the best travel writers I have read.

  • Richard Lynn
    2019-05-23 09:56

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

  • Manda
    2019-05-24 09:41

    A three-summer elegy for a small fishing village that even in the short space of those three summers becomes unrecognizable from the first to the third.

  • Sam Schulman
    2019-05-04 08:31

    Best travel writer of the 20th century.

  • Mumbler
    2019-05-14 06:30

    Well, I read this a little while after reading _Naples '44_, and that's a very tough act to follow. This book has some good stuff, but was nowhere near the league of that one. If a book's a mixed bag, I often think, "well now that I get where it's going, I might like it if I read it again later." The thought of reading this again makes me go "ugh."It's almost nothing but human folly... but that's exactly what his great book is, too, so that alone isn't the problem. _Naples_ was very rueful but didn't feel bleak or empty or, especially, dull, as this one does. I haven't yet read any other Lewis; I wonder whether this will by typical for me, or if I'll like others more. It's good that Muga the profiteer, who embodies the irresistible force of commercialism and modernization here, is not drawn as a devil. His works were pretty much shown as hellish, though. I wished to get to know more about him; he seemed less of an automaton than most of the characters.

  • Renia
    2019-05-15 02:56

    To książka bardzo na czasie. Smutna historia o zabójstwie tożsamości miejsca na rzecz stworzenia "barwnej" szopki dla turystów. Dziewicze regiony kontra spekulacja i kasa. Być czy mieć. Wierność samemu sobie czy poddanie się fali "nowego". Niejednokrotnie sytuacja bez wyjścia. Historia wielu niezanieczyszczonych "cywilizacją" wiosek, wybrzeży, regionów ... niestety nie tylko hiszpańskich.

  • andrew
    2019-05-04 06:54

    Outstanding account of world forgotten but only recently destroyed. It's humanity shines throughout.

  • Kasia
    2019-04-29 01:56

    Do małej rybackiej osady w Kataloni przybywa Anglik. Ponieważ rybacy sa bardzo nieufni musi bardzo się starać, żeby go zaakceptowali. Jedynym sposob na to, okazuje sie dostosowanie się do miejscowych reguł gry. Czytajac reportaż Lewisa udziela się fascynscja społecznościa Farol. Sa więc rybacy deklamujacy wiersze o swoich przygodach na morzu, wierzacy w przesady, ale nie w kosciol. Jest tez arystokrata zafascynowany tradycjami, probujacy ozywic dawne zwyczaje w Farol. Jest ksiadz, ktory zna swoje miejsce w tej ateistycznej osadzie i udziela ekspresowych ślubów ale przede wszystkim realizuje swoje pasje zwiazane z archeologia. Kiedy wsiakniemy do reszty w ten przedziwny swiat, Lewis pokarze nam jego kres. Do osady przybywa człowiek z pieniedzmi i wizja. Krop po kroku realizuje swoj plan, a zycie rybakow, a nawet sami rybacy powoli znikaja. A dzis jest Costa Brava i reportaz Lewisa, o tym jak kiedys wygladało tam, życie.

  • Martin Allen
    2019-05-16 01:41

    Exquisitely written tale of three seasons spent by the author in the village of Farol (thought possibly to be the village of Roses on the Costa Brava near the French/Spanish border) just as tourism was beginning to get a foothold. The delapidated fishing village is dying and its inhabitants try desperately to cling onto the past and the only existence they know whilst Muga (a pseudonym perhaps given owing to the name of the river that flows in that area), an rich interloper tries to renew and progress. I get the impression there is much artistic licence taken given this book was written in 1984, some 50 years after the author's excursion, but the sentiments and many of the descriptions and conversations are undoubtedly real and the images conjured up by his experiences and tales told to him are so vivid you feel like you're there. Overflowing with humour, pathos and descriptive passages that are simply breathtaking. I absolutely loved it.

  • Les Dangerfield
    2019-05-10 04:56

    Norman Lewis spends three summers in a northern Spansih fishing village in the late 40s, witnessing its change from a deeply conservative community which had changed little in many years to the very different world brought by the tourism boom on the Spanish coast. Whilst we might regret the loss of such traditional communities, I can't help but think that life became overall a lot better for the fishermen and their families. Well written, as Lewis' books invariably are. He always manages to keep his own personality in the background and to focus on the world he is experiencing around him.

  • Mark
    2019-05-08 04:55

    For everyone who has ever been to or wants to visit the coastal regions of Spain this is an excellent read, if not a must. For as much as I know, this book truly takes you back to the years before the megalomanic tourism industry invaded the country. You feel like you know the characters, have seen them somehow, somewhere along the coastline of Spain.

  • Beata
    2019-05-06 03:42

    Piękna opowieść, w którą się zapada jak w wysłużony i wygodny fotel. Rzadko się zdarza, żeby opowiadać o świecie, jego zmianach, zaletach i wadach z tak życzliwym podejściem. Bez chęci uwypuklania własnych ocen, bez pouczania i wartościowania. "Głosy starego morza" to wędrówka pod przewodnictwem wypróbowanego przyjaciela.

  • Piotr
    2019-05-22 09:31

    W trzecim sezonie NL chyba już nie miał serca do Farol, wszystko wyraźnie zwalnia, słabnie. Ale nie sposób się dziwić. I tak jest to znakomita opowieść i wspaniała historia, taki "reportaż magiczny".A! I wielkie brawa dla tłumacza! Kapitalna robota!

  • Bob
    2019-05-04 08:51

    A beautiful account of a way of life long gone. Very touching, very humourous.The part of Spain featured in this fine account, is now the Costa Brava. This chronicles the change through the eyes of a fine observer and master of the written word.

  • Dunrie
    2019-04-29 07:38

    This book chronicles three summers Lewis spent in an isolated fishing village on the Spanish Coast - where age-old suspicions and traditions morph in response to environmental, social, and economic change.

  • Rob Innis
    2019-05-01 06:57

    I enjoyed his style of writing and this book is a delightful read that yet again illustrates how the traditional way of Spanish life was quickly swept away during the late 1940s. Valuable insight to how life was in Spain before tourism took over

  • Maria Gambale
    2019-05-15 03:58

    I loved this book. Plain prose, incisive observations. Excellent timing, being present for the transformation - over the course of only three summers - of an inaccessible seaside town in Spain into a resort destination. Will definitely be reading more Norman Lewis.

  • C
    2019-05-14 09:37

    This book makes you want to visit the old Spain before it became the present-day money-grabbing tourist trap that we know. Big sigh.

  • !Tæmbuŝu
    2019-05-21 08:44


  • Susi
    2019-05-12 09:37

    this a fascinating read, especially if you have ever been to the Spanish coast.

  • Judith Johnson
    2019-05-07 04:30

    I spent quite a few childhood summers in a fishing village near Tarragona, and was reminded of many things by this book. Another superb piece of writing by a real master.

  • Catrien Deys
    2019-05-13 08:36

    A stunning literary and heartbraking account of two villages so close to my current home, that have been swallowed up by progress.