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Tuesday, May 27, 2014 (read 1482 times)

5 Must Reads of Spanish Literature

by Hannah

Federico García Lorca: La Casa de Bernarda Alba

Covered on many A level syllabi in the United Kingdom, and often dismissed by students as dull, heavy or dark, this Lorca favorite is perfect for anyone wanting to improve their language without getting too bogged down in lengthy description or stilted literary lexicon. Firstly, it’s a play. This means reading or skimming the text can sometimes be enough to follow the basic narrative, or to pick up on register, expression and vocabulary. It’s also set largely in one location, la casa itself. This limits confusion at rapidly changing space and dialogue, and in a similar way, the handful of characters in the work allows for even a Spanish novice to get to grips with at least some small level of character development. There’s a lot of metaphor in the play, but most is obvious enough for non native speakers to appreciate (the lack of color synonymous with Bernarda’s repressive authority over her daughters for example), and even if you need to skim over the Wikipedia synopsis beforehand (usually a good starting point for literature in a foreign language) the sentences are simple enough in places to build enough suspense even where a lack of comprehension would usually cause problems.

Anonymous: Lazarillo de Tormes

Set in a village close to Salamanca, (perfect if you’ve studied or plan to study Spanish there), this picaresque novel, whose author is disputed yet ultimately unknown, is for many, a masterpiece. Not quite lengthy enough to seem an impossible challenge, and broken down into manageable tratados, Lazarillo de Tormes is the perfect introduction to Hispanic literature. The endearing protagonist recalls his series of guardians, trials and tribulations as he gets to grips with the hardships and realities of life for someone of his social standing, navigating his adventures with wit and cunning as a true picaro. Packed with irony, dark humor and ambiguous connotation, this is a must read for foreign literature fans and novices alike.

Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada

This wouldn´t be the easiest read for someone too unfamiliar with Spanish prose, as the novel does not follow a chronological sequence, and has indeed been described by many as a ´ritual of investigation´ (or a very sophisticated crime novel?). However, Crónica certainly poses a shorter and perhaps more accessible alternative to the more renowned, celebrated and frequently recommended Cien años de Soledad. It touches on some interesting tradition too; alluding often to the restrictions of class, Latin American marriage culture, and the upholding of honor. It follows the story of the murder of Santiago Nasar, and it´s pseudo journalistic format sets it apart from other more linear Spanish narratives.

Federico Garcia Lorca: Yerma

Another Lorca play. Put simply, the narrative follows the internal struggles of its barren protagonist who longs for a child, and whose desperation for motherhood becomes an obsession. An excellent choice for anyone who enjoys metaphors and symbolism just as much as a steady narrative; just as in La Casa, Lorca floods his pages with oppressive and claustrophobic vocabulary, creating a sense of extreme repression and restriction. To some extent an undoubtedly heavy read, Yerma, just as with any Lorca play or poetry, reflects ideas which would have developed during the reign of dictator Francisco Franco, and therefore provides an insight (albeit not directly) into a monumental period in Spanish history, through the medium of literature and ironically, its freedom of expression. All in all, a good way to get interested in Spanish history, and to begin to see the links between literature and culture which are both unavoidable and invaluable, particularly if looking to study literature at University level.

Pablo Neruda: Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada

Poetry is always a great place to start if you haven´t previously read much in a foreign language beyond newspaper articles or passages in textbooks or magazines. Poetic styles and techniques mean there is no pressure to understand what the words are trying to convey, even if reading in your native language. Any Spanish poetry is a great way to appreciate new vocabulary, to spot rhyme and rhythm, and to enjoy the ideas behind the words, but it is the pertinence of themes such as death, love and loss explored by Neruda in this particular collection that makes it so worth a read, irrespective of nationality or level of Spanish comprehension.

Keywords: pablo neruda,gabriel garcía márquez,lazarillo de tormes,spanish literature,federico garcía lorca,spanish poetry,hispanic literature

Posted In: Spain, Culture


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