I was born in England, with an Italian name, and lived often in the south of France. Much of my writing has been concerned with travel; my first novel took place in Greece, my most recent (“The Years”) finds its characters routinely on the move. In 1989, I published a nonfiction account that doubled as memoir (“Running in Place: Scenes from the South of France”) and an essay collection in 2005 called “Anywhere Out of This World’ that took travel writing as theme.
I confess, however, I know next to nothing about the Iberian Peninsula. Like many other habitual wanderers, I’ve visited Madrid and Barcelona, but can’t claim any expertise on the cities and landscapes we’ll visit this trip. That makes me all the more eager to go, all the more eager to learn with you about that remarkable part of the world. For the Alumni Association, in previous years, I served more or less as an expert witness on a trip through Provence and a cruise on the Mediterranean from Rome to Malta. This time, my wife and I are elated to go as fellow-travelers and not as prior adepts of a particular geography; it’s a part of the world I’ve always wanted to visit and, where known, know better. We will serve as hosts instead of guides and share the delights of exploration with those who come along.
For 30 years, I taught at U-M and have just retired as the Robert Frost Distinguished University Professor of English. My wife, Elena, taught for a quarter of a century at what is now known as the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. I’ve published 29 books of fiction and nonfiction; she has just published her first novel, “The Silver Swan,” with crucial scenes set in the Pyrenees. (Her grandfather came to America from Spain, and her father studied in Prades with the Catalan cellist Pablo Casals.)
“From Gehry Back to Gaudi” and “Running with Hemingway (Bull in the Afternoon)” are topics we’ll no doubt address, but as part of a shared conversation rather than as a lecture. The great thrill of this journey — of every journey, really — is discovery. And in such a splendid place and time of year.
Learn more about the Across Spain to Portugal trip.