Article abstract: García Lorca is celebrated as a poet and dramatist who was able to weave traditional and folk elements of Spanish literature and culture into highly imaginative and original works. His poems and dramas are replete with startling metaphors and images that are both personal and universal in their focus on life and death, sexual identity, and the conflicts of fantasy and reality.
Federico García Lorca was born in rural Andalusia near the city of Granada. His father, Don Federico García, was a wealthy landowner. His mother, Vicenta Lorca, was a woman of artistic sentiments and a teacher who nurtured young García Lorca’s poetic sensibilities. Indeed, as a child, he entertained relatives and friends with his own puppet show dramas. Encouraged by his mother’s intense religious mysticism, the creative child took great delight in saying Mass for his family as if he were their priest.
By 1909, the family had moved to Granada, where García Lorca’s secondary education would take place. Though he had wanted to study music to become a composer, his practical father wanted his son to pursue a legal career. García Lorca was enrolled in the College of the Sacred Heart to prepare for such study at the University of Granada. At the college he was taught in the traditional Scholastic system of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which sought to merge intellectually the material with the spiritual. The young, thoughtful García Lorca, however, felt the clash between the medieval worldview of harmony portrayed in his formal studies and the modern world of enlightened scientific and social ideas then proliferating in Spain.
Graduating in 1914, García Lorca was enrolled in the University of Granada. While studying law there, he continued to pursue his interests in music and the rest of the liberal arts. By 1916, he was associating at cafés with fellow intellectuals and aesthetes who, like himself, found the everyday world in which they had to live boring, unimaginative, and, to use García Lorca’s own word, “putrefied.” During this period in his life, García Lorca was influenced by the respected musician Manuel de Falla, whose music was often characterized by its modern treatment of Spanish folk themes. He also became a follower of Don Fernando de los Ríos, who helped foster the modern intellectual, artistic, and political mood in Spain that challenged traditional values and authority.
Though he finally completed his law degree in 1923, in 1919 García Lorca moved to Madrid to study at the university there and lived in the Residencia de Estudiantes, a student residence that was a hotbed of radical, new thinking. While in Madrid, remarkable friendships with such literary figures as Menéndez Pidal, José Ortega y Gasset, and Juan Ramón Jiménez inspired in him a commitment to pursue a career as a writer. He also associated with the likes of Luis Buñuel, Pepín Bello, and perhaps most significantly, Salvador Dalí. Furthermore, he became a friend of Gregorio Martínez Sierra, a director of the Eslava Theater, who eventually produced Lorca’s first play.
García Lorca’s first publication, Impresiones y paisajes (1918), a melancholy collection of lyrics describing his impressions of ancient Spanish life as it resonated in decaying churches and monasteries, and Libro de poemas (1921), poems composed before García Lorca’s Madrid experience, gained little attention outside his intellectual circle of friends. Though Canciones, 1921-1924 (1927; Songs, 1976) demonstrated García Lorca’s genius for merging traditional themes and images of Spain into contemporary modes of poetic expression, it was the publication of Romancero gitano (1928; The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca, 1951, 1953) that brought him international attention. This book took more than five years to complete, and some have called it his finest single collection of poetry. In these poems, García Lorca incorporates the popular, rurally primitive spirit of Spain with the wildness and passion of his imagination. The gypsy culture provides the backdrop to the poet’s portrayal of the mystery of an alien society surviving in the dominant culture. Furthermore, he explores, with surprising metaphors and unusual word order, the existential and personal themes of dangerously repressed sexual instincts that are ever ready to erupt into the surface life, sometimes in the throes of violence and death. In fact, with haunting, lyrical beauty, the poems explore the full spectrum of sexual experience from the “normal” to the hidden impulses toward incest and homosexuality. The collection rightly brought García Lorca the title of “gypsy poet.”
By the 1930’s, while continuing to suffer emotional strife and bouts of depression, García Lorca turned his creative talents to the drama. With Bodas de sangre (1933; Blood Wedding, 1939), Yerma (1934; English translation, 1941), and later La casa de Bernarda Alba (1945; The House of Bernarda Alba, 1947), he created a dramatic trilogy that portrays characters struggling with their instinctual passions as well as their interlocking fates. Yerma, for example,...
(The entire section is 2170 words.)