Federico Garcia Lorca 1898-1936
Early Years: 1898-1919 • He was born in a small town a few miles from Granada, his father owned a small farm. • He moved to Granada itself, strongly influencing his interest in gypsy culture. • He studied law at sacred heart university. • In 1919, Lorca gave up his official studies to pursue his art and moved to Madrid where he remained for 15 years. http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/ (Federico Garcia Lorca as a child)
Adulthood: 1919-1936 • Shot to death by supporters of General Francisco Franco over the grave of his brother in law. His books were then burned in the streets. • He was friends with famous Spanish artist Dali, but their relationship ended devastatingly to Lorca after Dali refused romantic advances. • Lorca’s talents flourished under the new republican gov. of 1931 which allowed for much more individual and artistic freedom. He became a public star. www.biography.com (Lorca)
Writing Highlights • One of his most famous collections was his series of Gypsy Ballads or Romancero Gitano. It was famous for its exploration of sexual themes. Walking Asleep was part of this collection. • Many of his works were infused with popular themes like Flamenco and Gypsy culture. • This collection of works was inspired by traditional Spanish romance poetry. • Although the author was famous for many works, people loved most the plays and poems that he wrote about gypsy culture, while he himself felt that he did not want to be pigeonholed into that topic.
Historical Context: Long Work • The subject of a very young woman married to a much older man is a traditional Spanish subject and can also be seen in his next work, “The Love of Don Perlimplin”. • The play seeks to take the traditional subject, but put it in modern context with a twist. • The play was well received for it accurately captured the small town and closed neighborhood feel of southern Spain. • Spanish machismo still exists today, but was much more culturally prevalent at the time this work existed. Several of the characters, especially the mayor, portray this trait.
Highlights: The Shoemaker’s Wonderful Wife • The Macho Mayor: he thinks he’s good with the ladies, but his four dead wives beg to differ. • Puppets within a play: Lorca’s childhood putting a twist on a classic device. • The “Illuminating Moment”: Love is never what we want it to be, but if we let it, its what it ought to be.
Historical Context: “Walking Asleep” • Virginity is a requirement for a bride in Romani (or gypsy) culture in almost every sub-cultural group of the Roma. • The publication was written in 1928. This was before the Spanish Civil War. • Many people were convinced Lorca was a Gypsy because of the great detail and romanticism of his portrayal of Gypsy life, but he was certainly not. • Gypsy culture of the Andalusian population was highly idealized by the general Spanish population because of its portrayal in works of famous travelers and writers.
Brief Summary: “Walking Asleep” The poem begins in a sort of surrealist description between the ideal green of the mans love and the green she is. It alludes to the fact she is dead. The poem then transfers to a dialogue between a young man and an old man who is later known to be the father of the dead girl in the beginning. Then young man asks for rest and a place to sleep and die, but the old man says that he cannot give him what he seeks. The two then begin climbing towards the rail that the dead girl is waiting at (a climb which we will see can be symbolic for many things). The two men leave a trail of blood and tears on their climb. The poem ends with the old man’s confession that the woman is dead and the arrival of drunken civil guards, presumably to arrest the young man. The man then reflects again on the green he wished his love to be (youthful green, not rotting).
Concepts WA: Ballad Many aspects of “Walking Asleep” indicate that it is a traditional medieval ballad, including that its original Spanish title is more directly translated as “Ballad of a Sleep Walking Person”. Contains these elements that are essential in Balladry: • A third person narrative. • A regular rhyme scheme and rhythm. (More apparent in the original Spanish text). Contains these often seen elements of Balladry: • Imagery of color • A repeated line or refrain • Dialogue within some of the lines Though it is written in the style of traditional Spanish Balladry, it contains many stylistic elements that were more modern.
Concepts WA: Imagery and Symbolism Imagery and symbolism are the two primary devices that convey emotion and meaning in this poem. The most important image in this poem is the color green and the most important symbol is the climb the two men face. Green: The image of green in the start is the ideal green of youth and adventure and of the free things in nature. The green the girl has become is of rotting green flesh and hair. This contributes to the surrealist elements of the poem as it takes something as abstract as green and uses two very different abstract perceptions of it through the eyes of the dreamer. The Climb: When looking at various interpretations of this story, the climb was interpreted to mean a variety of different things, but in every interpretation I read, it was symbolic of something, not an actual climb. One of the most common (and I believe valid) interpretations of the symbol is that of death. The two men climb to the girl, the lover and the father, meaning that they attempt to join her in death. Only the young man makes it.
Concepts WA: Interpreting Abstract Poetry and Surrealism There is a lot of people who believe that this poem is about a wounded smuggler or a wounded soldier or a prisoner or a sailor, but each of these interpretations see, to rely heavily on a specific part of the poem for validity while largely ignoring the rest of the poem. The poem is written in surrealist fashion. With that known, one con understand the poem more fully. Nothing in the poem is meant to narrate the actuality of the story being told. It is filled with symbols of the reality of the gypsy man’s tale (the boats, the mountains, the cistern, the moon) and distorted with the disconnect of the dream he is perceiving his reality in (cats claws, icicle, the climb, even possibly his wound). Even Lorca himself said that the poem was not meant to tell a specific story. What is important is to understand the general scenario that the real images create and then to apply the emotions that the surreal elements create to the general situation.
Love and Hate: Walking Asleep “Walking Asleep” tends towards the love side of this theme. In the tradition of the Ballad, this tale centers around the tragic romance of two young lovers. I think that there are three main points this poem makes about love. • What we want love to be. The green of youth and adventure. • What we will do for love. The waiting of the girl and the quest of the man and the father. • The overpowering forces of the rest of the world can overcome love and break even our best efforts.
What I Learned: Gitanos • Though they are often viewed negatively from an economic perspective, Romani culture is often celebrated by Spanish pop culture. • The most common religion among them is Roman Catholic, though they are not common church goers. • Even today, many gitanos live a nomadic life style. • Ethnically, gypses recognize each other, but have very different regional practices and cultures. http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/images/paintings/cmbc/large/wyr_cmbc_1974_661_large.jpg
What I Learned: Surrealism • The aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality.“ • Took real life objects and twisted them into impossible scenes. • Tried to attach the strange reality of dreams to the supposedly concrete reality of conscious life. • Surrealism is famous for both its written and visual works. RIGHT: Dali
Works Cited “Federico García Lorca.” 2014. The Biography.com website. Apr 15 2014. http://www.biography.com/people/federico-garcía-lorca-9386246 “Federico García Lorca.” 2014. Academy of American Poets. www.poets.org website. Apr 15 2014. http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/163 “Romancero Gitano.” 2014. Encyclopedia Britannica website. Apr 16 2014. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/225659/Federico-Garcia- Lorca/215003/Romancero-gitano Federico García Lorca Plays: Two. Methuen Drama World Classics. Great Brittan. 1990. Translated. Print. “Walking Asleep.” Lorca. Themes in World Literature. Ed. 1970. Pg. 597-598. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.