a voyage around ‘Las Meninas’

8cf28242-3c6e-42c8-b132-f706a8b16793Simon Schama at the Financial Times:

Jacobs, one of the great non-fiction writers of this and the last century, is usually found shelved under “travel writing”, which is the truth but certainly not the whole truth, any more than it adequately describes the books of Bruce Chatwin or Patrick Leigh Fermor. Wherever they happened to go, the travel all these writers undertook was essentially a journey through themselves, and the reports they made drew their power from the geography of their memories. It was their imaginations that roamed as much as their boats or mules.

Memory, too, is the central strand of Jacobs’ last book,Everything is Happening, about his long obsession with Diego Velázquez’s elaborate mirror-game of truth and illusion, “Las Meninas” (The Maids of Honour). All too often, incomplete works are posthumously published as acts of friendship, piety or curiosity rather than for their intrinsic value. This is emphatically not the case with Everything is Happening. Ending as it does just with Jacobs on the verge of entering the royal palace in Madrid where Velázquez’s painting originally hung, the broken narrative is tantalising (though supplied with an excellent coda and introduction by his friend Ed Vulliamy) since one has the impression that, for all the oceans of print that have been expended on the notoriously enigmatic picture, Jacobs is about to give us a decisive revelation.

more here.