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News and comments and events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible, Granada, 'la bella y la bestia, and Federico Garcia Lorca's complicated love-hate relationship with the city, etc

Lorca's breakthrough

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Fri, June 09, 2017 19:10:27

Lorca fought with some determination to establish himself as a poet and found himself frustrated in his mid-twenties when his play Mariana Pineda ran into trouble with Primo de Rivero’s censorship. The end of the summer 1926 finds Lorca at an impasse. His father is angry with him for what he sees as the lack of direction in his son’s life, with little apparent promise of any artistic success. He threatens to put an end to his idle versifying. “Summer is coming to an end and I’m left stranded without the least sign of any start to my work as a dramatic poet in which I have so much faith and which would bring me such happiness,” he writes to the theatre empresario Eduardo Marquina in the hope that this man might yet rescue Mariana Pineda for him.

Such is his desperation that he begins to toy with the idea of getting a proper job. At the beginning of September, he writes to his friend Jorge Guillén that he has decided to do the exams for the Chair of Literature. He tries hard to convince himself that he has a vocation for the academic life. "Tell me what I have to do,” he asks Guillén, who has just been appointed to the Chair of Literature in Murcia. “Remember I'm neither intelligent nor hard-working. A lazy-bones!"

Guillén’s good humoured and humorous reply seems to be designed to put the aspiring poet off from embarking on any academic career. “First, you must read a lot”, he says. “Not only poetry and prose, but also all the books that have been written about those poetry and prose works. And you must make notes of what you have read.” “But that’s not half so bad,” he continues, “for then you need to keep a file so that you can find all the notes that you have written. As a first step, buy a box to file your notes. That will impress your father no end and show him you are serious about your new academic bent.”

Salvador Dalí, for his part, is equally scathing about his friend’s new-found academic ambition. “Dear Federico, you’re not going to do exams for anything,” (he wrote laconically). “Persuade your father to leave you in peace to publish your books, that is what will make you famous ... “

“If Mariana were to be performed, I would win over my father once and for all,” Lorca predicted. And indeed he was right. The success of Mariana Pineda, when it was performed in Barcelona in June 1927, combined with the publication of Canciones also in 1927, and then followed by the extraordinary success of the First Gypsy Ballad Book, published in 1928, marked the literary break-through Lorca was seeking and after that parental pressure let up. Lorca’s father came to accept his son's literary vocation, and the poet was spared further traumas of having to look for a proper job.

Final note: As with other books published in his lifetime, Lorca gave all his friends and family copies of The Gypsy Ballad Book with a dedication inside the front cover. In the copy he gave to his parents, and only in theirs, he added in brackets after his signature the word “poet”, a telling gesture, asserting his finally achieved independence as a creative writer.

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