Andorra by Byron D. Augustin is from the juvenile Cultures of the World series. Ten years ago I read Armenia from the same series. This book, published in 2009, covers the basics in short chapters such as geography, history, the people, arts, food and language, among others. Colour illustrations accompanied almost every page. I took note of the mention of the “National Archives of Andorra, soon to be housed in a Frank Gehry-designed building in La Massana” yet, now twelve years later, there is no trace of it. I wonder if the whole project was shelved. After a bit of Internet searching I discovered the film The Competition which dealt with the worldwide search to find an architect for the building. Since the film was made in 2013 I suppose there was still the presumption that the archives would be built.
I love political geography and especially that of the world’s micronations. We learned of the unique state of Andorra’s sovereignty as a co-principality. What I did not know is how sparsely populated the country used to be; it didn’t reach ten thousand in population until the 1960’s. Today the population hovers close to eighty thousand. Stamp lovers know that domestic mail is sent free–thus without the need of stamps–yet Andorrans pay for international mail. Should I ever visit Andorra how I’d love to mail a domestic letter or postcard.
In my travels I have stumbled across two books about Andorra, but bought neither. The first time was in Paris in 2009. I found the same French (naturally) paperback at two bouquinistes, yet didn’t buy either because I felt the price was too high. I regret my decision now. I saw the second book at a shop in Amsterdam, but it was neither a travel guide nor a history of the country but rather a catalogue of discount and tax-free stores. It was of no interest to me whatsoever.