Duende by Jason Webster
A Journey Into the Heart of Flamenco

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Synopsis

The music started: two guitarists beating out more Alboreás. The women took turns to dance in a frenzy, each trying to outdo the other. “Deep Song always sings in the night,” Lorca had written. It was the credo of the flamenco: a rejection of the mundane, the ordinary, the life of the everyday man, embracing, rather, an extreme world – extreme passions, extreme feelings, the extremes of life and death. And it was a way of life I wanted to believe in – its excitement, its danger, the affirmation it gave you that you were different, and alive.

Destined for a sedate and predictable life in academia, Jason Webster was derailed in his early twenties when his first love, an aloof Florentine beauty, dumped him unceremoniously. Loveless and eager for adventure – and determined to fulfill a secret dream -- he left Oxford and headed for Spain, the country that had long captivated his imagination, and set off in search of duende, the intense and mysterious emotional state – part ecstasy, part melancholy – that is the essence of Spain’s signature art form: flamenco.

Duende is Webster’s captivating memoir of the years he spent in Spain pursuing his obsession. Studying flamenco guitar until his fingers bleed, he becomes involved in a passionate yet doomed affair with Lola, a flamenco dancer (and older woman) married to the gun-toting Vicente, only to flee the coastal city of Alicante in fear for his life. He ends up in Madrid, miserable and lovelorn, but it’s here that he has his first taste of the gritty world of flamenco’s progenitors – the Gypsies whose edgy lives and fervent commitment to the art of flamenco vividly illustrate the path to duende. Before long he is deeply immersed in a flamenco underworld that combines music and dance with drugs and crime. After two years Webster moves on to Granada where, bruised and battered, he reflects on his discovery of the emotional heart of Spain.
 

About Jason Webster

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JASON WEBSTER was born near San Francisco and later moved to Europe as a child, living in England and Germany. He eventually ended up in Alexandria, Egypt, and then Spain, where he learned flamenco guitar and where he has been based on and off for the past ten years. He currently lives in Valencia, Spain, with the flamenco dancer Salud.
 
Published March 18, 2003 by Broadway. 336 pages
Genres: Arts & Photography, Travel. Non-fiction

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There is no clock running in this hazy memoir, but it seems that in an amazingly short time Webster becomes proficient enough to sit in as an accompanist with a loose troupe of flamenco singers and dancers who are, by his own sad estimation, “good enough to play for tourists.” He exists nightly i...

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The Guardian

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Duende: A Journey in Search of Flamenco by Jason Webster Doubleday £12.99, pp329 'Duende' is one of those words that is almost impossible to translate into English, because its meaning relies on a wide frame of reference that even many Spaniards would have difficulty explaining, so intimately is ...

Jan 05 2003 | Read Full Review of Duende: A Journey Into the He...

The Guardian

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Duende: A Journey in Search of Flamenco by Jason Webster 390pp, Doubleday, £12.99 It is often said that travel writing is boring - people have been predicting its demise for hundreds of years, at least since Samuel Johnson damned it as a genre in the 18th century.

Dec 28 2002 | Read Full Review of Duende: A Journey Into the He...

Publishers Weekly

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Moving from Italy to Spain, he becomes obsessed with learning the intricacies of flamenco guitar and seeking out the elusive yet passionate feeling of duende, an untranslatable term referring to the feeling that is the essence of flamenco.

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