Leisure, Tenerife

Novels set in Spain: historical fiction in local landscapes

At this time of year, for you and all our residents, the terrace of your luxury property in Tenerife must be a favorite spot to listen to music or read one of the many novels set in Spain. The blue of the sky, the ocean breeze, and the exotic scents of the Canary Islands flora envelop the senses and coax you to relax, gaze out at your surroundings, and let the worries of daily life melt away. 

If you decide to dive into reading, there are a myriad of options: science fiction, romance or detective novels, and even current affairs magazines and newspapers. But maybe you’ve been thinking about picking up that historical novel or essay that requires a peace and quiet difficult to come by in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Maybe you’re a closet Indiana Jones, a lover of ancient history, a secret anthropologist in the guise of a banker, lawyer or doctor… You wouldn’t be the first!

If we’ve just described you, today we offer some historical books with great insight into the history and way of life of the island’s original inhabitants, the Guanches. These books will introduce you to local legends full of mystery and allure. Care to learn about indigenous life while letting your explorer’s imagination run free? Here are some books set in the Canary Islands that will let you dig up history from the comfort of your exclusive home on Tenerife.

Of all the historical literature about the Canary Islands and Tenerife, the most mysterious books have to do with the Guanches, the native peoples that lived on the island before the arrival, in 1496, of the Castilian conquistadors.

If you love this kind of story, don’t miss The King of Taoro (by Horst Uden, published in Spanish in 2004 by Zech, and whose 1941 German original bore the title Der König von Taoro). It details the Spanish conquest of Tenerife and how the resistance of the Guanches was gradually overcome. The story begins with the appearance of the Spanish on the island. To symbolize their arrival and their evangelical possession of the land, they nail a large cross into the sand, founding Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Action predominantly focuses on the battles that take place between the conquerors, led by Alonso Fernández de Lugo, and the Guanches, commanded by Mencey Bencomo, interspersed with details of the customs and rites of the indigenous inhabitants of the Fortunate Isles.

If your Spanish permits, another excellent read is La Cueva de las Mil Momias (The Cave of the Thousand Mummies, by David Galloway, Daniel García and Antonio Tejera Pascual, Herques Editorial, 2010), whose prologue is written by the charismatic Spanish author Alberto Vázquez Figueroa. It concerns one of the most mysterious legends surrounding the disappearance of the Guanche world: the cave of the thousand mummies. Here, the Spanish conquistadors claimed to have unearthed an enormous mass grave containing the corpses of 1000 Guanche people. The truth of its existence remains uncertain, though, because even today, despite numerous archaeological excavations and research projects designed to find it, it has eluded detection. Some historians place it, however, somewhere in the Barranco de Herques, in the foothills of the Teide on the opposite side from Abama, less than an hour from our luxury homes on Tenerife. If you value rigour, then this is a book for you, because it consists of two parts: two historical essays that make up the first part, and David Galloway’s novel, Entre Cuevas, the second. The volume also features photographs by Juan Francisco Delgado.

If these novels set in Spain have whet your appetite and you want more, we recommend another book perfect to enjoy from a deckchair on any of the incredible terraces that populate our resort. One that straddles the tenuous border between history and legend: a book by the Roman art historian Roberto Zapperi (Zech, 2006) whose original title, Il selvaggio di Tenerife, is translated into many languages. In it, the author uses a variety of reliable sources to relay the incredible story of the adventures and misadventures of a native of Tenerife, Pedro González. González suffered from a rare disease that caused his whole body to be covered with excessive amounts of hair, giving him an animal-like appearance. The plot takes us first to the French court of King Henry II, then to the courts of Germany and Italy, before finally ending with refuge and peace on the shores of Lake Bolsena.

We’re certain that reading these novels set in Spain will satisfy the thirst for adventure demanded by your archaeologist’s soul. But if you want more, you can always jump out of the pages of your books and into action, traversing unexplored territories of the Teide foothills in search of the mysterious Cave of a Thousand Souls or tracing the fantastic routes you’ve imagined from the descriptions in these tomes. Do you dare? Well, head out! You’re in the perfect setting to live Tenerife culture.