Author: Richard A. Barrett

Publisher: Xlibris Corporation 

ISBN: 978-1-4500-7353-0:   ISBN:978-1-4500-7353-3

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While reading this book, I kept wondering about the motivation that compelled a professor of anthropology to dig up his fieldwork notes of more than forty years old to publish them in a short book. It is exactly what Dr. Richard A. Barrett, professor (emeritus, I guess) of snthropology of Temple University and of the University of New Mexico, did and his new book is entitled Tales from a Spanish Village.

I would have understood his motivation had it been that the new book would have consisted of the only publication resulting from his field work in a Spanish village by the name of Benabarre. That is, however, not the case. A rapid online search yields that Professor Barnett did have what purports to be his thesis in print, published by the University of Michigan in 1970, 418 pages. Additionally, in 1974, Professor Barrett apparently edited his thesis into a special study entitled Benabarre, the Modernization of a Spanish Village, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 110 pages.

The Tales from a Spanish Village starts with the tale about a student of the University of Michigan who, one fine morning, was summoned to the office of his professor of Anthropology, none other than the world famous Eric Wolf, to be offered an eight thousand 1968 U.S. dollars stipend for doing a one year doctoral fieldwork somewhere “like the Mediterranean.” (p.12)

Then the Tales continues with the arrival of the young “American professor” accompanied by his Japanese wife in a remote small village in the northern region of Spain, on the search for an abode followed by the detailed accounts of the interactions of the guest with a chosen number of “personalities” among the local population. The Tales describes these numerous encounters individually, one by one, as the necessities of life and research put them in contact with one another.

The narrative unfolds rather monotonously and the characters portrayed display no particular features that would arrest the readers’ attention or interest. Except maybe in the case of the Colomina Mystery, related in chapter 12. Not so much for the story itself but for the almost unanimous and shocking reaction of the villagers to it. The two Colomina brothers attracted no special attention from their fellow villagers save the fact that one of them was a deaf-mute and the other used to show up with a new car once every few months, although they apparently had no work and, therefore, were known otherwise as quite poor. Until one day, to the big surprise of every one in the neighboring localities, both brothers were arrested for counterfeiting. To the astonishment of the American anthropologist, all admitted almost openly their admiration for the brothers, for being simple inhabitants as they all were, were yet able to pull a clever feat, unimageable to many of them, which clearly violated the law of the land. The most important and unexpected aspect of this whole event was that instead of condemning the culprits for their ilolegal act, the villagers instead commiserated with their predicament and upon learning that they might face up to several years in jail, they all exclaimed:” After all, they didn’t harm anyone. All they did was to cheat the state.” (p. 151)

I am not pretentious enough to offer suggestion for the author to have done thing differently, although, while reading this book, I kept wishing that Professor Barrett had produced a different book.

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