A Journey In Search Of Flamenco
Part travelogue, part picaresque adventures of a young man, DUENDE takes the reader to the emotional heart of Spain.
Having pursued a conventional enough path through school and university, Jason Webster was all set to enter the world of academe as a profession. But when his aloof Florentine girlfriend of some years dumped him unceremoniously, he found himself at a crossroads. Abandoning the world of libraries and the future he had always imagined for himself, he headed off instead for Spain in search of duende, the intense emotional state - part ecstasy, part desperation - so intrinsic to flamenco.
Duende is an account of his years spent in Spain feeding his obsessive interest in flamenco: he subjects himself to the tyranny of his guitar teacher, practising for hours on end until his fingers bleed; he becomes involved in a passionate affair with Lola, a flamenco dancer (and older woman) married to the gun-toting Vicente, only to flee Alicante in fear of his life; in Madrid, he falls in with Gypsies and meets the imperious Jesús. Joining their dislocated, cocaine-fuelled world, stealing cars by night and sleeping away the days in tawdry rooms, he finds himself spiralling self-destructively downwards. It is only when he arrives in Granada bruised and battered, after two years total immersion in the flamenco lifestyle that he is able to put his obsession into context.
In the tradition of Laurie Lee's classic As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Duende charts a young man's emotional coming of age and offers real insight into the passionate essence of flamenco.
“The autobiography-as-travelogue that is also a rite of passage is a form which worked brilliantly for Laurie Lee and Bruce Chatwin - both novelists as well as seekers after the truth-behind-the-truth. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new star of the genre: Jason Webster”
“His descriptions of troubled modern day Spain are mesmerising, but the greater curiosity is in seeing just how much trouble the confused innocent can create for himself before finding out whom he might really be”
“Wonderfully told, with enough detail about flamenco to educate the curious, and enough drama and characters to fill a novel, Webster may not have turned out to be a guitar maestro, but his journey is recounted like a master”
“Duende is an intensely personal portrait of a country in the throes of modernisation, whose spirit still defies definition”
“One of the best books ever written about Spain”
“A powerful, dangerous book that should win many prizes”
Conde Nast Traveller
“I found his descriptions of the Flamenco underworld irresistible... I couldn't put it down”
Chris Stewart, author of Driving Over Lemons
“An impressive debut... Duende sweeps along from one harmonious chord to the next and builds into a crescendo that is as rich in atmosphere and emotion as the world it seeks to portray... What it does most successfully is describe a young man's rite of passage through a foreign culture, a journey from which he emerges with a greater understanding of his subject and considerably wiser about the nature of human relationships. We sill be lucky if we see many such passionate and evocative travel books this year”
The Sunday Times
“Fascinating... The best travel writing is not about topography but people, and Webster's infiltration of this notoriously closed community makes for compulsive reading... Webster is an exceptional writer, and this is a great book”
“Jason Webster may have started out by hoping that flamenco would provide him with a means of creative expression, but by the end it very much looks as if he has found his true voice as a writer”
“Jason Webster portrays the sheer anarchy and passion of the place as convincingly as any of his more illustrious predecessors”
“Highly entertaining... Music, passion, drugs, 'a beakerful of the warm South' - who could resist all that in these dark days?”
“The traditions of the Bildungsroman and the rites-of-passage novel have migrated into the travel genre”
The Times Literary Supplement