Back John Dos Passos, “The Donkey Boy”

John Dos Passos (1896–1970)
From John Dos Passos: Travel Books & Other Writings 1916–1941

Palma de Majorca, c. 1920, watercolor by John Dos Passos.

“I am mad about Spain, the wonderful mellowness of life, the dignity, the layered ages,” John Dos Passos wrote a century ago, toward the end of his first trip to the Iberian peninsula in 1917. He was particularly enamored by the countryside: “we passed every now and then, long strings of mule-teams, with little tinkly bells and the drivers, wrapped like Romans in their mantas striding along behind.” And perhaps above all, he admired the evidence of Spain’s multi-millennial history and traditions, evoking “the strata of civilization—Celt-Iberians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Moors, and French.” As his biographer Townsend Ludington concludes, “Spain was the most important factor among many in shaping Dos Passos’s ideas and forming the way he saw the world.”

After a second trip in 1919–20, Dos Passos wrote more than a dozen magazine pieces about his travels. He heavily revised a number of them and wove them together into a semi-fictional book-length montage, Rosinante to the Road Again. In one the book’s essays, “The Donkey Boy,” he spins a narrative featuring an American tourist who encounters and accompanies a young muleteer, and we present it as our Story of the Week selection.

Read “The Donkey Boy” by John Dos Passos

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