As well as a general introduction, Fraser provides some background with each section and sometimes context for the individual stories. Mostly, however, he allows people to speak for themselves: though the narratives are obviously edited, there's no intrusive authorial presence and distinctive personalities come through clearly.
Looking backwards, the shadow of the Spanish Civil War (the subject of Fraser's oral history Blood of Spain) still hung over the village, especially for the older members of the community; looking forwards, the dramatic changes brought by tourism and a strengthening economy were being felt but had not yet transformed the village. But while Tajos conveys the broad changes in the community, it is the little details of lives that are often most revealing.
"Sometimes when the weather was bad no fish was landed on the beach here. I've walked as far as Malaga to buy fish. Seven or eight hours it would take me to get back here with a basket weighing forty or fifty kilos. Hundreds and hundreds of times I've had to do that."
"Once my novio and I went into a bar with four or five other pairs of novios; it was a fiesta and we were having a good time. It wasn't long before three of our mothers, including mine, arrived. My mother slapped me across the face twice for being in the bar. Wherever we went our mothers had to come too."
"I was seventeen when, after a lot of persuading, I managed to get my father to agree to let me go out to look for a building job on the coast. He couldn't understand anyone leaving the land, it simply didn't enter his head. Even at the time of the mica mining he never left the farmstead he rented. The land — that was all there was for him."
Ronald Fraser may have written for outsiders, for anthropologists and travellers, but I suspect one of the biggest audiences for his work now will be Spaniards trying to understand the lives of their parents and grandparents. Tajos works on several levels: it could almost be read just as a collection of short stories, but it's also a multi-faceted portrait of a community.
Note: Tajos: The Story of a Village on the Costa del Sol is also published as The Pueblo: A Mountain Village on the Costa del Sol.
- Related reviews:
- Ronald Fraser - Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War
- Gerald Brenan - South From Granada
- books about Spain + Spanish history
- more ethnography