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  • The Importance of the Impossible
  • Mark Statman (bio)
BOOK REVIEWED: Maria M. Delgado, Federico García Lorca. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

Maria M. Delgado's Federico García Lorca is a book worthy of serious attention, not only for scholars of Lorca's plays, but for scholars of Lorca in general, and it even serves as a valuable introduction for those coming to his vast work. Delgado claims "this study concentrates primarily on his dramatic output for which his poetry was, in the words of one critic, a 'preparation.'" This judgment (Delgado is citing Edwin Honig) is a stance with which I strongly disagree; rather I would argue that it is Lorca's sensibility as a poet that informs his plays. That is why so often the figure of the author/poet makes an appearance in his work and Delgado herself often talks about the poetic nature of Lorca's language.

My objection aside, I think Delgado does much more with this volume than she herself suggests. By dividing the book into four major sections: Life, politics, and mythology; The 'known' Lorcas; The 'unknown' Lorcas; and Lorca's afterlives, she presents the reader with a rather nuanced and compelling description not only of Lorca's development as a playwright including vivid descriptions of the play productions during his lifetime, but gives equal attention to major subsequent productions and the ways in which directors, designers, composers, choreographers, and actors have chosen to present, interpret, and reinterpret the work.

Federico García Lorca's work as a writer is not always easy to pin down. My own work translating Poet in New York (with Pablo Medina), and the multiple versions that have appeared of the text have taught me that. Born in 1898, a member of Spain's famed "Generation of 27" (which included some of the most important artists that country has produced, including Vicente Alexandre, Rafael Alberti, Jose María Hinojosa, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Remedios Varo, and Luis Buñuel), Lorca from an early age was an artistic jack-of-all trades. As an adolescent, he wrote plays, poetry, painted, and was an accomplished musician on piano and guitar. He was a young artistic empresario, constantly organizing entertainments and engaging family members, household servants, [End Page 111] friends, and neighbors both as actors and audience.

This performative edge fills Lorca's writing. He wrote over 1,120 pages of poetry, many of them, particularly the early ones, filled with the echoes of ballads and flamenco. He was the poet of the cante jondo or deep song but he preferred to recite these rather than write them down. This has often presented problems for scholars and translators: which is the authoritative text? While the plays do seem somewhat more definitive, Lorca, as director, would often revise them through rehearsal and even while in production.

Delgado's discussion of the 'known' Lorca (namely Yerma, Blood Wedding, and The House of Bernarda Alba, the last of which was not produced until the year following his assassination in 1936) does great justice to the complications of staging the author's work, as she places the plays not only in the context of the how of the staging, but in the larger social and political contexts of the time. I was especially interested in the discussion of Mariana Pineda (1923–25), and The Shoemaker's Wonderful Wife (1924–26), not only in the ways they show the young playwright developing, but also in their anticipation of themes in the better-known plays: questions of gender and authority, of sexual behavior and social mores, of liberal political causes. Also of importance here is Delgado's serious treatment of Lorca's early puppet shows: The Basil Watering Girl (1922), The Billy Club Puppets (1922) and The Puppet Play of Don Cristobal (1930–31). Delgado notes that "Lorca's puppet plays have habitually been allocated only perfunctory attention by critics who view them primarily as experimental steps toward the tragedies." But Delgado correctly points out that there is more at work here and that Lorca is writing in a tradition that deserves serious consideration. "These plays, however, function with an alternative framework that acknowledges the...


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