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Federico Garcia Lorca was a Spanish poet, play, and prose writer who was part of the Generation of ’27, and considered as the most prominent writer of Spanish literature of the 20th century. During the Spanish Civil War, he was shot to death by supporters of General Francisco Franco.
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Key Facts & Information
Childhood and Education
- Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca, the eldest of four children, was born on June 5, 1898, to a wealthy landowner and piano teacher.
- Lorca grew up in rural Andalucia. At age 10, his family moved to Granada, where he attended a private, secular institute in addition to a Catholic public school.
- Lorca entered the faculty of law building at the University of Granada but was a hapless student best known for his extraordinary talents as a pianist. He took nine years to complete a bachelor’s degree.
- Despite plans to become a musician and composer, he turned to writing in his late teens. His first experiments in prose, poetry, and drama reveal an intense spiritual and sexual malaise along with an adolescent devotion to such authors as Shakespeare, Goethe, the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, and the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, father of Hispanic Modernismo, a late and decadent flowering of Romanticism.
- In 1919 Lorca moved to the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, a prestigious and socially progressive men’s residence hall, where he met filmmaker Luis Buñuel and the artist Salvador Dalí, who later became a close companion.
- In Madrid, Lorca also befriended the renowned older poet Juan Ramon Jimenez and a circle of poets his own age, among them Rafael Alberti, Jorge Guillen, and Pedro Salinas.
- A consummate stylist, Lorca sought throughout his career to juxtapose and meld genres. His poems, plays, and prose often evoke other, chiefly popular, forms of music, art, and literature.
- His first book, Impressions and Landscapes (1918), a prose work in the modernista tradition, chronicled Lorca’s sentimental response to a series of journeys through Spain as a university student.
- Libro de poemas (“Book of Poems”), a collection of predominantly modernista poems written during his younger years, followed in 1921. Both writings disappointed Lorca and reinforced his inherent resistance to publication, a fact that led to frequent delays in the publication and production of his work. Lorca preferred to perform his poems and plays, and his histrionic recitations drew innumerable admirers.
- The Spanish stage director Gregorio Martinez Sierra premiered Lorca’s first full-length play, El maleficio de la mariposa (The Butterfly’s Evil Spell in Five Plays: Comedies and Tragicomedies), a symbolist work about a lovesick cockroach, in Madrid in 1920. Critics and audiences ridiculed the drama, and it closed after four performances.
- Lorca’s next full-length play, the historical verse drama Mariana Pineda was written in 1923 and opened in 1927 in a production with sets by Dali, and received mixed reviews.
- In the early 1920s, Lorca began experimenting with short, elliptical verse forms inspired by Spanish folk song, Japanese haiku, and contemporary avant-garde poetics. He wrote a prodigious series of brief poems arranged in thematic “suites,” later collected and published in 1983 under the title Suites.
- In 1922 Lorca collaborated with the eminent Andalusian composer Manuel de Falla on a festival of cante jondo (“deep song”) in Granada, which heightened the author’s interest in popular Andalusian song. In a blaze of inspiration, he wrote a series of poems based on songs of the Andalusian Gypsies.
- Even more compressed than Suites, Poema del cante jondo, written from 1921 to 1925 and published in 1931, offers a radical synthesis of the traditional and the avant-garde. The series signaled Lorca’s emergence as a mature poet.
- His collaboration with Falla further interested Lorca to learn about the Spanish puppet theatre tradition. In 1923 he wrote Los titeres de Cachiporra (“The Billy-Club Puppets”), the first of several versions of a puppet play inspired by the classic Andalusian Grand Guignol.
Involvement with Dali
- From 1925 to 1928, Lorca was passionately involved with Salvador Dali. The intensity of their relationship led Lorca to acknowledge, if not entirely accept, his own homosexuality.
- At Dali’s urging, the poet began to experiment more boldly with avant-garde currents in the art world, notably surrealism, although he refused to align himself with any movement.
- In poems such as Oda a Salvador Dalí (1925-26), Canciones (written in 1924, published in 1926), and a series of abstruse prose poems, Lorca sought to create a more objective poetry, devoid of private sentiment and the “planes of reality.”
- He joined his contemporaries in exalting Don Luis de Gongora, a 16th-century Spanish poet known for his dispassionate, densely metaphorical verse. Lorca and his fellow poets commemorated the tricentennial of Gongora’s death in 1927 and became known thereafter as the “Generation of 1927.”
- Meanwhile, Lorca continued to mine the popular Spanish tradition in his plays La zapatera prodigiosa (‘The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife’, written 1924, premiered 1930), a classic farce, and El amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín (‘The Love of Don Perlimplín with Belisa in Their Garden in Five Plays: Comedies and Tragicomedies’, written 1925, premiered 1933), a “grotesque tragedy” partially drawn from an 18th-century Spanish comic strip.
- Both plays reveal themes common to Lorca’s work: the capriciousness of time, the destructive powers of love and death, the phantoms of identity, art, childhood, and sex.
- In 1928, with Dali’s encouragement, Lorca publicly exhibited his drawings. A gifted draftsman blessed with a startling visual imagination, Lorca produced hundreds of sketches in his lifetime.
Success and Downfall
- The publication in 1928 of Romancero gitano, a poetry sequence inspired by the traditional Spanish romance, or ballad, catapulted Lorca into the national spotlight.
- A lyrical evocation of the sensual world of the Andalusian Gypsy, the collection enthralled Spanish readers, many of whom mistook Lorca for a Gypsy. The book’s first edition sold out within a year.
- Throughout the work’s 18 ballads, Lorca combined lyrical and narrative modes in fresh ways to form what he described as a tragic “poem of Andalusia.”
- Lorca’s sudden fame destroyed his privacy. This, along with the demise of his friendship with Dali, the collapse of another love affair, and a profound spiritual crisis, plunged Lorca into severe depression. He sought both release and newfound inspiration by visiting New York and Cuba in 1929.
- Lorca’s stay in the United States and Cuba yielded Poeta en Nueva York in 1940, a series of poems whose dense, at times hallucinatory images, free-verse lines, and thematic preoccupation with urban decay and social injustice mark an audacious departure from Lorca’s previous work. The collection is suggestive of Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe, T.S. Eliot, and Stephen Crane’s writings, and pays homage to Walt Whitman.
- In Cuba, Lorca wrote El público (“The Audience”), a complex, multifaceted play, that brashly explores the nature of homosexual passion. Lorca deemed the work, which remained unproduced until 1978, “a poem to be hissed.”
- In 1931, on his return to Spain, he completed a second play aimed at rupturing the bounds of conventional dramaturgy, Así que pasen cinco años (‘Once Five Years Pass’), and he assumed the directorship of a traveling student theatre group, La Barraca, sponsored by Spain’s progressive new government.
- With the 1933 premiere of his first Andalusian tragedy, Blood Wedding, Lorca achieved his first major theatrical success and helped inaugurate the most brilliant era of Spanish theatre since the Golden Age.
- In 1933, he went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to oversee several productions of his plays and to give a lecture series. While there he befriended the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, with whom he collaborated on a tribute to Ruben Darío.
- Despite his new focus on theatre, Lorca continued to write poetry: Divan del Tamarit, published in 1940, is a set of love poems inspired by Arabic verse forms; Seis poemas galegos (‘Six Galician Poems’, published in 1935); and Sonetos del amor oscuro (‘Sonnets of Dark Love’, 1984). The three collections underscore Lorca’s abiding insistence on the interdependence of love and death.
- In 1934 Lorca responded to the death of a bullfighter friend with the majestic Lament for a Matador, a work famous for its opening refrain, “A las cinco de la tarde” (“At five in the afternoon”). The four-part poem, his longest, confirms Lorca as the greatest of Spain’s elegiac poets.
Later Years and Death
- During the last two years of his life, Lorca premiered Yerma (1934), the second of his Andalusian tragedies, and completed a first draft of The House of Bernarda Alba, his third tragedy.
- Childhood events and personalities inspired both Bernarda Alba and Doña Rosita la soltera (1935), as well as Don̄a Rosita’s intended sequel, the unfinished Los sueños de mi prima Aurelia (‘The Dreams of My Cousin Aurelia’, 1936).
- In 1935 Lorca undertook his most overtly political play, El sueño de la vida (‘The Dream of Life’), a technically innovative work based on recent events in Spain.
- Lorca was at work in the summer of 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out. On August 16, he was arrested in Granada by Nationalist forces, who condemned his homosexuality and his liberal views, and imprisoned without a trial. On the night of August 18 or 19, he was driven to a remote hillside outside town and shot.
- In 1986 the Spanish government marked the 50th anniversary of Lorca’s death by erecting a monument on the site of his murder. The gesture bears witness to Lorca’s stature as the most important Spanish poet and playwright of the 20th century, a man whose work continues to influence writers and artists throughout the world and to speak to readers everywhere of all that is most central to the human condition.
Federico Garcia Lorca Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Federico Garcia Lorca across 30 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Federico Garcia Lorca worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Federico Garcia Lorca who was a Spanish poet, play, and prose writer who was part of the Generation of ’27, and considered as the most prominent writer of Spanish literature of the 20th century. During the Spanish Civil War, he was shot to death by supporters of General Francisco Franco.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Pop Quiz
- Lorca Speaks
- Works in Order
- Generation of ‘27
- Friends for Keeps
- Wartime Writers
- El Maestros
- 3-2-1, Go!
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