Almost 100 years after his railway engineer grandfather embarked on a long, lonely passage to a remote corner of South America, Michael Jacobs sets off on a journey that will follow in his footsteps
It was not until long after his grandmother, Sophie, had died that Michael Jacobs was eventually permitted to read the lengthy and passionate letters that his grandfather Bethel had written her from nine thousand miles away. In these letters, Jacobs discovered a remarkable story of hardship, deprivation and enduring love. His grandfather's work on the railway through the Andes was exhausting and desperately lonely. He had little in common with his fellow workers and became consumed by a mounting despondency, from which only his love for Sophie could save him. But, as the months and years of separation passed, the world in which Sophie was blossoming appeared more and more remote from his own.
Michael Jacobs' journey back through time takes him from a rain-swept Hull churchyard to desolate Antofagasta in Chile and to the former silver capital of Potosí. Climbing through ghostly, lunar-like scenery towards the snow-capped summits of the Andes, he follows the route of his grandfather's railway - across giant rocky plateaux, through terrifyingly steep gorges and valleys of tropical lushness, and past grim mining townships buffeted by winds, rain and snow - to reveal an extraordinary love story.
Michael Jacobs (1952-2014) received a PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art. All things Hispanic obsessed him since childhood and he translated a number of Spanish and Latin American plays. He was a member of the Andalucian Order of Gastronomy and in 2002 was made the first foreign knight of 'The Very Noble and Illustrious Order of the Wooden Spoon'.
Michael Jacobs so steeped his youth in erudition that until he was forty he didn't know who the Beatles were. He then burst from this shell and, making up for lost time, plunged into the wilder side of life. This unusual reversal gives him a unique voice, one that combines wit, warmth and wildness and seasons it with enough solid knowledge to give you confidence that you're in good hands. Ghost Train Through the Andes gives full measure of this extraordinary traveller and gifted writer. If you're not up to tramping the Atacama Desert or wandering through Bolivia on the eve of revolution, best let Michael Jacobs do it for you. — Chris Stewart
'This is more than a travel book . . . it's also a love story' — Nicholas Bagnall, Sunday Telegraph
'A fascinating travel book' — Sunday Times
Praise for The Factory of Light:
Turbulent, tender, irreverent and funny . . . Sheer delight — Joanne Harris, author of CHOCOLAT
Michael Jacobs' book does everything a book ought to do: it amuses, delights and instructs — Chris Stewart, author of DRIVING OVER LEMONS
A finale worthy of Fellini — Geraldine Cooke, Independent
A welcome reminder that close encounters of the Mediterranean kind don't have to be all froth and bubble — Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times
A journey of Chaucerian richness — Barnaby Rogerson, Country Life
'A magical, enraptured book' — John Walsh, Independent
'Jacobs is one of the best writers on all things Spanish' — The Tablet
'The particular strength of this eloquent, unhurried tale is its depiction of the author's friendship with El Sereno . . . Theirs is a winning Quixote-Panza double act' — Miranda France, Daily Telegraph
Entertaining — Sara Wheeler, Daily Telegraph
'Skilfully weaves the journeys of grandfather and grandson, separated by almost a century . . .Jacobs . . .embraces South America with the hot, lustrous spirit of carnival' — Tarquin Hall, New Statesman
'A... bold and engaging family history.' — Rory McLean, Sunday Telegraph