Lorca: A Dream of Life
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A magnificent and astonishingly vivid biography of one of the century's premier poets.
With a rare blend of grace and scholarship, Leslie Stainton raises the stakes of our appreciation for the greatest of Spain's modern poets, Federico Garca Lorca. Drawing on fourteen years of research; more than a hundred letters previously unknown to biographers; exclusive interviews with Lorca's friends, family, and acquaintances; and newly discovered archival material, Stainton has brought her subject to life as few biographers can. She describes his carefree childhood in rural Andalusia; his life in Madrid and Granada, then in New York, Havana, and Buenos Aires; his potent relationships with other Spanish artists, such as Salvador Dal, Luis Buuel, and Manuel de Falla; and, finally, his marginal political involvement in the Spanish Civil War that nonetheless cost him his life.
Lorca exasperated his family for years with his "idleness," but he captivated his many admirers through his charisma, passion, and artistic genius. Deeply divided, Lorca grappled with issues of class, culture, and identity-he struggled to come to terms with his homosexuality, and Stainton shows how that struggle informed his work.
Throughout, Stainton meticulously relates the oeuvre to the life. Her biography will quickly become the standard one-volume work on the poet.
Lorca’s ship when it docked in Havana on March 7, 1930. The city’s leading newspaper, the Diario de Marina, published a front-page article heralding the arrival of Spain’s “most prestigious” contemporary poet. Lorca attributed such attention to the “exaggerated” nature of Havanans. But he welcomed the fuss. In Cuba, adoration burned as brightly as the sun. Lorca shed the solitude of his New York days as eagerly as he shed his winter coat. He donned a white linen suit, turned his face toward the
made the previous year. Sometime later they collaborated on a pair of theatrical spectacles blending dance, music, and story drawn from the popular Spanish tradition. The second of these, a ballet entitled The Cuckolds’ Pilgrimage, was partially inspired by a yearly pilgrimage in the Andalusian village of Moclín, located some twenty miles from Lorca’s birthplace. For years Lorca had toyed with the notion of a theatrical spectacle based on the pilgrimage. In the mid-1920s he had worked with the
since New York. On loose sheets of paper, inside books, as an embellishment to his autograph, he drew trailing vines, lemons, flowers, arrows, faces, and harlequins. He turned his signature into a work of art, elongating the letters of his name, twining them around one another, embroidering them with images. He illustrated poems by his Argentine friends. He produced four drawings of sailors to accompany the Mexican writer Salvador Novo’s bilingual Seamen Rhymes. Lorca made the sketches as a
mountains—stirred him as few locations could. He was intimately familiar with the sensations of the place. As a teenager he wrote of the echo of birds in the vega’s sprawling poplar groves and the smell of straw burning in autumn fields. Momentarily neglecting its more troubling aspects—poverty, death, the cruelties of fate and the mysteries of desire—he described his childhood as “shepherds, fields, sky, solitude. Simplicity itself.” For Lorca, the vega embodied these. Uninhibited and pagan, it
were too far away to accommodate his “theater life”). He had also found it necessary to send a bouquet of roses to Xirgu and to host a banquet for several journalist friends in order to persuade them to go to Barcelona later in the season to review Mariana. “The money disappears like water,” he said. “I’m not a spendthrift.” His father viewed matters differently. For years he had indulged Lorca financially. A two-month allowance sometimes vanished in three days—spent on little more than outings