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In 1792, when he was forty-seven, the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya contracted a serious illness which left him stone deaf. In this extraordinary book Julia Blackburn follows Goya through the remaining thirty-five years of his life. It was a time of political turmoil, of war, violence and confusion, and Goya transformed what he saw happening in the world around him into his visionary paintings, drawings and etchings. These were also years of tenderness for Goya, of intimate relationships with the Duchess of Alba and with Leocadia, his mistress, who was with him to the end. Julia Blackburn writes of the elderly painter with the intimacy of an old friend, seeing through his eyes and sharing the silence in his head, capturing perfectly his ferocious energy, his passion and his genius.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099437253
ISBN-10: 0099437252
Format: Paperback
(199mm x 130mm x 17mm)
Pages: 256
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 3-Apr-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Blackburn was introduced to Goya by her mother, a painter, who kept a small paperback edition of his etchings in her bookcase. So, as her mother lay dying, Blackburn sought to bring the painter she most associated with her back to life. This book, therefore, is about two people, separated by almost 200 years. Julia Blackburn (21st-century British writer) and Francisco de Goya (early 19th-century Spanish painter) cohabit almost every page. At the age of 47, Goya went profoundly deaf, and it is from here on that Blackburn has chosen to join up with him. She details the royal paintings and many etchings he made over his last 35 years until his death in 1828. With the help of a pair of earplugs, she writes about the old painter's world as seen without sound: screaming faces with no voice emerging, barking dogs baring soundless open jaws, the silence of a frenzied crowd. She traces his footsteps through Spain and France, staying in the same villages he stayed in; watching a bullfight as he did, pretending he is sitting just in front of her; even eating the same food as she imagined he ate and letting us know how it tasted. In all of this detailed, lucid writing, she reveals not only the painter's life but her own discovery of him. Blackburn does not pretend to be objective; she only shows us Goya through her own eyes, describing incidents in his life, even his most intimate moments ('warming his cold feet between her thighs'), with the confidence of someone who knows the old man well. Many assertions are undocumented and often unsubstantiated by anything other than the author's own intuition. Yet still we believe them completely. Mere facts never give a full picture of a person's life, as this affectionate portrait shows. Review by Dea Birkett (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Julia Blackburn

Julia Blackburn has written several books of non-fiction - Charles Waterton, The Emperor's Last Island, Daisy Bates in the Desert, With Billie - a family memoir, The Three of Us, which won the 2009 J. R. Ackerley Award, and, most recently, Thin Paths; and also two novels, The Book of Colour and The Leper's Companions, both of which were shortlisted for the Orange Prize. She is the author of seventeen short stories specially commisioned by BBC Radio, a selection of which were published in My Animals and Other Family, and four radio plays, including The Spellbound Horses, which was broadcast in 2011.

Books By Author Julia Blackburn

Threads by Julia Blackburn


Paperback, August 2017
Hubert by Julia Blackburn


Hardback, March 2016
Murmurations of Love, Grief and Starlings by Julia Blackburn

Murmurations of Love, Grief and Starlings

Paperback, April 2015
Thin Paths by Julia Blackburn

Thin Paths

Paperback, July 2012