El Camino – The road

elcaminoOnly in a certain sense does it deal with the 800-km road in northern Spain, which since the Middle Ages has attracted millions of pilgrims to reach the most famous European shrine: St. Jacob’s tomb in Santiago de Compostela.

Recovering from a serious accident, the smug, prodigal protagonist of Ferenc Tolvaly wants to measure himself after a life of ostentation. Is he able to walk the long road to Santiago de Compostela and reconnect with a girl he hardly knows? This is not just a physical challenge. For the agnostic man with a scant knowledge of the Bible, this physical trial becomes a vision-filled, enlightening journey into the self. This is the great adventure of a man who reacquaints himself with the half-forgotten vicissitudes and simple values of his childhood as he walks the Spanish countryside filled with a unique cultural history.

And since hardly anything has changed in the small villages and towns of the Camino since the Middle Ages, during the 15-hour-a-day walks a lot of old legends come alive, as told by a sixteenth century priest dispairing of the Inquisition. These legends and anecdotes curiously mix with the man’s own memories.

The author has himself walked this road and filmed his journey. What we actually read is a magnificent novel about the road to a new-found tranquility and freedom, and about the secret that most of us today are far removed from.