In Federico García Lorca: The Poetry in All Things, I set out to give a sense of what it is that has made Lorca such a household name. To this end, I focus my attention almost exclusively on his most popular works: his Gitano ballads, his New York poems, and his trilogy of rural plays. This approach is bound to raise some eyebrows among Lorca scholars.
Over the last two to three decades at least, scholars have made every effort to focus minds on Lorca’s lesser-known works in order to demonstrate the breadth, depth, and complexity of his oeuvre. In a few cases, this effort has been motivated by concerns that the common fascination with Lorca’s Andalusian settings in popular works such as the Gitano ballads and the rural trilogy is bound up with stereotypical notions about Spain and its peoples; notions that perpetuate Spain’s status as exotic other, or that cast the writer as a passionate soul rather than a man of culture and intellect. Of course, scholarship is right to be wary of the clichés that beset Spain and the Spanish temperament. Yet it should be equally wary of a mindset that privileges the intellect over emotion and, as a consequence, highbrow culture over popular art.
Lorca himself was aware of, and resisted, the strict categorizations that discriminate against popular culture. He set great store by the novelty with which he imbued scenarios that might otherwise have seemed commonplace. He saw no contradiction in his status as a modern artist and his attachment to his locality, to tradition, to folklore. And though the Spanish thinker, José Ortega y Gasset, characterized the dominant artistic trends of the day as dehumanized art, Lorca, for his part, found himself drawn again and again to the human subject. Indeed, his most successful works are precisely those that voice, in no uncertain terms, the joy and, above all, the sorrow of being human, and they do so without compromising either artistic endeavour or intellectual substance.
What I hope to show in my book is how Lorca combined his interest in human beings with his interest in aesthetics and art. The trick, I believe, was his ability to see the poetry in all things—in the things of the world—, meaning that he could at once decry the injustices befalling human beings and yet couch them in the most beautifully lyrical terms. We can see this, in his Gitano ballads, in his endeavour to weave highly elaborate poetic conceits into his depictions of the death of a young boy, the battles between feuding gangs, and the ransacking of an encampment by the Civil Guard. We see this too in the lyrical monologues of his rural trilogy where poetry gives no quarter in the communication of human suffering meant as much to move us as to make a moral or social point.
If my Companion to Federico García Lorca is designed to convey Lorca’s polymathy and provide an overview of his interests across the full range of his oeuvre, Federico García Lorca: The Poetry in All Things focuses unashamedly on those few works for which he is ultimately best known, foregrounding the importance of his poetic vision of the world and his attachment to the emotions. It provides very close readings of these works under three key themes: Lorca’s defence of the Gitanos, his critique of modernity, and his feminist credentials. It acknowledges that Lorca’s interest in social injustice makes his work relevant today. But importantly, it also insists that his constant appeal is based not just on his thematic choices but on his ability, especially in his most popular works, to communicate real world issues in the most deeply poetic and moving of terms.
This guest post was written by Federico Bonaddio, Reader in Modern Spanish Studies at King’s College, London. He is editor of A Companion to Federico García Lorca (2007) and author of Federico García Lorca: The Poetics of Self-Consciousness (2010), both published by Tamesis.