Rafael Alberti

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Although Rafael Alberti established his reputation almost entirely on the basis of his poetry, he became involved in drama after emigrating to Argentina, writing plays of his own and adapting Miguel de Cervantes’ El cerco de Numancia (c. 1585, discovered in 1784; Numantia: A Tragedy, 1870) for the modern stage in 1944.

Alberti’s most notable achievement in prose, a work of considerable interest for the student of his poetry, was his autobiography, La arboleda perdida (1942; The Lost Grove, 1976). In addition, he was a talented painter and supplied illustrations for some of his later volumes.


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Rafael Alberti had at once the ill luck and the singular good fortune to flourish during Spain’s second great literary boom. Despite his acknowledged worth, he was overshadowed by several of his contemporaries—in particular, by Federico García Lorca. Although Alberti’s name is likely to come up in any discussion of the famous generación del 27, or Generation of ‘27, he generally languishes near the end of the list. On the other hand, the extraordinary atmosphere of the times did much to foster his talents; even among the giants, he earned acceptance and respect. He may occasionally have been lost in the crowd, but it was a worthy crowd.

His first volume, Marinero en tierra, won Spain’s National Prize for Literature in 1924, and throughout his long career, his virtuosity never faltered. Always a difficult poet, he never gave the impression that his obscurity stemmed from incompetence. His political ideology—Alberti was the first of his circle to embrace communism openly—led him to covet the role of “poet of the streets,” but Alberti will be remembered more for his poems of exile, which capture better than any others the poignant aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

Ultimately, Alberti stands out as a survivor. Many of his great contemporaries died in the civil war or simply lapsed into a prolonged silence. Despite his wholehearted involvement in the conflict, Alberti managed to persevere after his side lost and to renew his career. He continued to publish at an imposing rate, took up new activities, and became a force in the burgeoning literary life of Latin America, as evidenced by his winning of the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s highest literary honor, in 1983. Consistent in his adherence to communism, he received the Lenin Prize for his political verse in 1965. Oddly enough, then, Alberti emerges as a constant—an enduring figure in a world of flux, a practicing poet of consistent excellence during six decades.


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Gagen, Derek. “Marinero en tierra: Alberti’s first ‘Libro organico de poemas’?” Modern Language Review 88, no. 1 (January, 1993): 91. Alberti’s “Marinero en tierra” is examined in depth.

Havard, Robert. The Crucified Mind: Rafael Alberti and the Surrealist Ethos in Spain. London: Tamesis Books, 2001. A biographical and historical study of the life and works of Alberti.

Jiménez-Fajardo, Salvador. Multiple Spaces: The Poetry of Rafael Alberti. London: Tamesis Books, 1985. A critical analysis of Alberti’s poetic works. Includes bibliographic references.

Manteiga, Robert C. Poetry of Rafael Alberti: A Visual Approach. London: Tamesis Books, 1978. A study of Alberti’s literary style. Text is in English with poems in original Spanish. Includes bibliographic references.

Nantell, Judith. Rafael Alberti’s Poetry of the Thirties. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1986. This study puts Alberti’s work in historical and social context by analyzing the influences from a turbulent decade in which civil war erupts, ignites a European conflagration, and ends in societal crises. She discusses political poems that are not as memorable as his earlier works but deserve recognition for their artistic as well as social value.

Ugarte, Michael. Shifting Ground: Spanish Civil War Exile Literature. Durham: Duke University Press, 1989. Examination of the importance of Spanish exile literature during and after the civil war. The second section of the book explores the intellectual diaspora of the civil war, and an analysis of Alberti’s La arboleda perdida is featured prominently.

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