Federico García Lorca born 5 June 1898 (d. 1936)
Federico García Lorca was a Spanish poet and dramatist, also remembered as a painter, pianist, and composer. An emblematic member of the Generation of '27, he was killed by Nationalist partisans at the age of 38 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
Born into a family of minor, but wealthy, landowners in the village of Fuente Vaqueros, Granada, García Lorca was a precocious child, although he did not excel at school. In 1909, his father moved the family to the city of Granada, Andalusia where in time he became deeply involved in local artistic circles. His first collection of prose pieces, Impresiones y paisajes, was published in 1918 to local acclaim but little commercial success.
Associations made at Granada's Arts Club were to stand him in good stead when he moved in 1919 to the famous Residencia de estudiantes in Madrid. At the School of Philosophy of the University of Madrid (current-day Universidad Complutense de Madrid) he would befriend Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, amongst many others who were or would become influential artists in Spain. Here he met Gregorio Martínez Sierra, the Director of Madrid's Teatro Eslava, at whose invitation he wrote and staged his first play, El maleficio de la mariposa, in 1919-20. A verse play dramatising the impossible love between a cockroach and a butterfly, with a supporting cast of other insects, it was laughed off stage by an unappreciative public after only four performances and soured García Lorca's attitude to the theatre-going public for the rest of his career; he would later claim that 1927's Mariana Pineda was his first play.
Over the next few years García Lorca became increasingly involved in his art and Spain's avant-garde. He published three further collections of poems including Canciones (Songs) and Romancero Gitano (1928, translated as 'Gypsy Ballads', 1953), his best known book of poetry. His second play Mariana Pineda, with stage settings by Dalí, opened to great acclaim in Barcelona in 1927.
However, towards the end of the 1920s, García Lorca fell victim to increasing depression, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over the increasingly unsuccessful concealment of his homosexuality from friends and family. In this he was deeply affected by the success of his Romancero gitano, which increased—through the celebrity it brought him—the painful dichotomy of his life: he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured self, which he could only acknowledge in private.
Growing estrangement between García Lorca and his closest friends reached its climax when surrealists Dalí and Buñuel collaborated on their 1929 film Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog), which García Lorca interpreted, perhaps erroneously, as a vicious attack on him. The film ended Lorca's affair with Dalí, along with Dalí meeting his future wife Gala. At the same time, his intensely passionate but fatally one-sided affair with the sculptor Emilio Aladrén was collapsing as the latter became involved with his future wife. Aware of these problems (though not perhaps of their causes), García Lorca's family arranged for him to take a lengthy tour of the United States in 1929-30.
García Lorca's stay in America, particularly New York City, where he studied briefly at Columbia University School of General Studies, was his first adult experience of a democratic society, albeit one he considered to be dominated by rampant commercialism and the social oppression of minority groups, and it acted as a catalyst for some of his most daring work. His collection of poems Poeta en Nueva York explores his alienation and isolation through some graphically experimental poetic techniques, and the two plays Así que pasen cinco años and El público were far ahead of their time—indeed, El público was not published until the late 1970s and has never been published in its entirety.
His return to Spain in 1930 coincided with the fall of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the re-establishment of the Spanish Republic. In 1931, García Lorca was appointed as director of a university student theatre company, Teatro Universitario la Barraca ('The Shack'). This was funded by the Second Republic's Ministry of Education, and it was charged with touring Spain's remotest rural areas in order to introduce audiences to radically modern interpretations of classic Spanish theatre. As well as directing, Lorca also acted. While touring with La Barraca, García Lorca wrote his best-known plays, the 'rural trilogy' of Bodas de sangre ('Blood Wedding'), Yerma and La casa de Bernarda Alba. He distilled his theories on artistic creation and performance in a famous lecture entitled 'Play and Theory of the Duende', first given in Buenos Aires and Havana in 1933, in which he argued that great art depends upon a vivid awareness of death, connection with a nation's soil, and an acknowledgment of the limitations of reason. La Barraca was the first to produce Lorca's 'rural trilogy' plays. The group's subsidy was cut in half by the new government in 1934, and la Barraca's last performance was in April 1936.
When war broke out in 1936, García Lorca left Madrid for Granada, even though he was aware that he was almost certainly heading toward his death in a city reputed to have the most conservative oligarchy in Andalucía. García Lorca and his brother-in-law, who was also the socialist mayor of Granada, were soon arrested. He was executed, shot by Falange militia on August 19, 1936 and thrown into an unmarked grave somewhere between Víznar and Alfacar, near Granada. There is a large controversy about the motives (personal non-political motives are also suggested) and details of his death. The dossier compiled at Franco's request has yet to surface.
The Franco regime placed a general ban on his work, which was not rescinded until 1953 when a (heavily censored) Obras completas was released. That Obras did not include his late Sonnets of Dark Love, written in November 1935 and performed only for close friends — these were lost until 1983/4 when they were finally published. It was only after Franco's death in 1975 that García Lorca's life and death could be openly discussed in Spain.
Today, García Lorca is honored by a statue prominently located in Madrid's Plaza de Santa Ana.
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