Other Literary Forms
The publisher Aguilar of Madrid issued a one-volume edition of Federico García Lorca’s works, compiled and annotated by Arturo del Hoyo, with a prologue by Jorge Guillén and an epilogue by Vicente Aleixandre. In addition to the poetry, it includes García Lorca’s plays, of which the tragic rural trilogy Bodas de sangre (pr. 1933, pb. 1935; Blood Wedding, 1939), Yerma (pr. 1934; English translation, 1941), and La casa de Bernarda Alba (wr. 1936; pr., pb. 1945; The House of Bernarda Alba, 1947) are world famous and represent García Lorca’s best achievement as a poet become director-playwright. In order to portray all the facets of García Lorca’s artistic personality, the Aguilar edition also includes his first play, El maleficio de la mariposa (pr. 1920, pb. 1957; The Butterfly’s Evil Spell, 1963); an example of his puppet plays, Los títeres de Cachiporra: La tragicomedia de don Cristóbal y la señá Rosita (wr. 1928, pr. 1937; The Tragicomedy of Don Cristóbal and Doña Rosita, 1955); selections from Impresiones y paisajes (1918; impressions and landscapes), García Lorca’s first published prose works, in which his genius is already evident in the melancholic, impressionistic style used to describe his feelings and reactions to the Spanish landscape and Spanish life; several short prose pieces and dialogues; a number of lectures and speeches; a variety of representative letters to friends; texts of newspaper interviews; poems from the poet’s book of suites; fifteen of his songs; and twenty-five of his drawings.
Although the Aguilar edition reflects a consummate artist, still missing from its pages are a number of other works: a five-act play, El público (fragment, wr. 1930, pb. 1976; The Audience, 1958), and the first part of a dramatic biblical trilogy titled “La destrucción de Sódoma” (wr. 1936; the destruction of Sodom), on which García Lorca was working at the time of his death. Lost are “Los sueños de mi prima Aurelia” (the dreams of my cousin Aurelia) and “La niña que riega la albahaca y el príncipe pregunton” (the girl who waters the sweet basil flower and the inquisitive prince), a puppet play presented in Granada on January 5, 1923. “El sacrificio de Ifigenia” (Iphigenia’s sacrifice) and “La hermosa” (the beauty) are titles of two plays whose existence cannot be substantiated.
Reportedly, García Lorca also collected a group of poems titled “Sonetos del amor oscuro” (sonnets of dark love), the title suggesting to certain critics the poet’s preference for intimate masculine relationships. Until the 1960’s, most of the works evaluating García Lorca centered on the events of his life and death and were only interspersed with snatches of literary criticism. Since his death, thematic and stylistic studies by such noted scholars as Rafael Martínez Nadal, Gustavo Correa, Arturo Barea, Rupert C. Allen, and Richard L. Predmore have served to illuminate García Lorca’s symbolic and metaphorical world.
The typically Spanish character of his plays and poetry, enhanced by rich and daring lyrical expression, have made Federico García Lorca one of the most universally recognized poets of the twentieth century. His tragic death in 1936 at the hands of the Falange, the Spanish Fascist Party, in the flower of his manhood and literary creativity, merely served to further his fame.
The first milestone of García Lorca’s short but intense career was the publication of The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca, which solidly established his reputation as a fine poet in the popular vein. His dark, brooding, foreboding ballads of Gypsy passion and death captured the imagination and hearts of Spaniards and foreigners, Andalusians and Galicians, illiterate farmers and college professors. Critics saw in García Lorca’s poems the culmination of centuries of a rich and diverse Spanish lyric tradition. For example, Edwin Honig has noted that García Lorca’s poetry took its inspiration from such diverse sources as the medieval Arabic-Andalusian art of amorous poetry; the early popular ballad; the Renaissance synthesis in Spain of classical traditions, as exemplified by the “conceptist” poetry of Luis de Góngora y Argote; and the cante jondo, or “deep song,” of the Andalusian Gypsy.
Living in an era of vigorous cultural and literary activity, called by many Spain’s second golden age, García Lorca clearly maintained his individuality. His innate charm and wit, his strong and passionate presence, his duende, or “soul,” as a performer of Andalusian songs and ballads, and his captivating readings of his own poetry and plays drew the applause and friendship of equally talented writers and artists, such as Rafael Alberti, Pedro Salinas, Jorge Guillén, Vicente Aleixandre, Salvador Dalí, and Luis Buñuel.
The poet reached the peak of his popular success in the late 1920’s. Both his Songs and The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca were published to great critical acclaim. In the same period, he delivered two memorable lectures, the first at the cante jondo festival organized jointly with composer Manuel de Falla in Granada, and the second at the festival in honor of Góngora’s tercentenary. His play Mariana Pineda (pr. 1927, pb. 1928; English translation, 1950) was produced in Barcelona, and the following year he founded and published the literary journal Gallo. Despite these achievements, however, García Lorca suffered a grave spiritual crisis, to which he alludes in his correspondence but never really clarifies. This crisis led him to reevaluate his artistic output and turn to new experiences and modes of expression.
The result of García Lorca’s soul-searching can be seen in his later works, especially Poet in New York and Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter. In the former, García Lorca fully unleashes his imagination in arabesques of metaphor which on first reading appear incomprehensible. Poet in New York is a difficult and frequently obscure work that has been viewed as a direct contrast to his earlier poetry. Yet, as Predmore has so painstakingly demonstrated, these poems extend rather than depart from García Lorca’s established preference for ambiguous and antithetical symbolism.
The two threads that run throughout García Lorca’s work are the themes of love and death: They lend a poetic logic and stability to what may otherwise appear chaotic and indecipherable. A study of these themes in García Lorca’s poetry and plays reveals a gradual evolution from tragic premonition and foreboding, through vital passion repressed and frustrated by outside forces, to bitter resignation and death. Throughout his life, García Lorca’s constant companion and friend was death. The poet Antonio Machado described this intimacy with death in his lament for García Lorca:
He was seen walking with Her, alone,
unafraid of her scythe.
. . . . . . . .
Today as yesterday, gypsy, my Death,
how good to be with you, alone
in these winds of Granada, of my Granada.
García Lorca’s gift of imagination, his genius for metaphor and volatile imagery, and his innate sense of the tragic human condition make him one of the outstanding poets of the twentieth century. With his execution in Granada in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the frustrated personas of his poetry and plays, who so often ended their lives in senseless tragedy, materialized in his own person. In García Lorca, life became art and art became life. Combining the experience of two cultures, he addressed in both, the Andalusian and the American man’s primal needs and fears within his own interior world.
Federico García Lorca was born on June 5, 1898, in Fuentevaqueros, in the province of Granada. His father, Don Federico García Rodríguez, was a well-to-do landowner, a solid rural citizen of good reputation. After his first wife died, Don Federico married Doña Vicenta Lorca Romero, an admired schoolteacher and a musician. García Lorca was very fond of his mother and believed that he inherited his intelligence and artistic bent from her and his passionate nature from his father. It was in the countryside of Granada that García Lorca’s poetic sensibility took root, nourished by the meadows, the fields, the wild animals, the livestock, and the people of that land. His formative years were centered in the village, where he attended Mass with his mother and absorbed and committed to memory the colorful talk, the folktales, and the folk songs of the vega (fertile lowland) which would later find a rebirth in the metaphorical language of his poetry and plays.
In 1909, his family moved to Granada, and García Lorca enrolled in the College of the Sacred Heart to prepare for the university. This was the second crucial stage in his artistic development: Granada’s historical and literary associations further enriched his cultural inheritance from the vega and modified it by adding an intellectual element. García Lorca wanted to be a musician and composer, but his father wanted him to study law. In 1915, he matriculated at the University of Granada, but he never was able to adapt completely to the regimentation of university studies, failing three courses, one of them in literature. During the same period, he continued his serious study of piano and composition with Don Antonio Segura. García Lorca frequented the cafés of Granada and became popular for his wit. In 1916 and 1917, García Lorca traveled throughout Castile, Léon, and Galicia with one of his professors from the university, who also encouraged him to write his first book, Impresiones y paisajes. He also came into contact with important people in the arts, among them Manuel de Falla, who shared García Lorca’s interest in traditional folk themes, and Fernando de los Ríos, an important leader in educational and social reforms, who persuaded García Lorca’s father to send his son to the University of Madrid.
In 1919, García Lorca arrived in Madrid, where he was to spend the next ten years at the famous Residencia de Estudiantes, in the company of Rafael Alberti, Jorge Guillén, Pedro Salinas, Gerardo Diego, Dámaso Alonso, Luis Cernuda, and Vicente Aleixandre. There García Lorca published his first collection of poems, Libro de poemas, and became involved with the philosophical and literary currents then in vogue. In 1922, García Lorca returned to Granada to conduct with Manuel de Falla a “Festival of Cante Jondo.”
The years from 1924 to 1928 were successful but troubled ones for García Lorca, marked by moments of elation followed by depression. During these years, García Lorca developed a close friendship with Salvador Dalí and spent several summers with the Dalí family at Cadaqués. He published his second book of poems, Songs, in 1927 and in that same year saw the premiere of Mariana Pineda in Barcelona and Madrid. In December of 1927, García Lorca participated in the famous Góngora tricentennial anniversary celebrations in Seville, where he delivered one of his most famous lectures, “The Poetic Image in Don Luis de Góngora.” Gradually, García Lorca’s fame spread, and his The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca became the most widely read book of poems to appear in Spain since the publication of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer’s Rimas in 1871. During the period from May to December of 1928, García Lorca suffered an emotional crisis which prompted him to leave Spain to accompany Fernando de los Ríos to New York. After spending nine months in the United States, a stay that included a visit to Vermont, García Lorca returned to Spain by way of Cuba with renewed interest and energy for his work. The clearest product of this visit was Poet in New York, one of his greatest books of poems, published four years after his death.
Upon his return to Madrid in 1930, García Lorca turned his focus increasingly to the dramatic. In 1932, under the auspices of the Republic’s Ministry of Education, García Lorca founded La Barraca, a university theater whose aim was to bring the best classical plays to the provinces. In the same period, he saw the successful staging of Blood Wedding and El amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su...