It’s the birthday of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca (1898) (books by this author), born in Fuente Vaqueros, in the province of Granada. His father was a successful farmer, and his mother was a gifted pianist. García Lorca published his first book, Impressions and Landscapes, in 1918, and then moved to Madrid the following year, enrolling in the Residencia de Estudiantes (Student Residence), a cultural center that provided a stimulating, dynamic, and progressive environment for university students. It was at the Residencia that García Lorca met and befriended a group of artists, including composer Manuel de Falla, filmmaker Luis Buñuel, and painter Salvador Dalí; he also became interested in Surrealism and the avant-garde. During the 1920s, he wrote and staged a couple of plays; the first (The Butterfly’s Evil Spell ) was laughed off the stage, and the second (Mariana Pineda ) received mixed reviews. He also collected folk songs and wrote a great deal of poetry; much of it — like Poem of the Deep Song, published in 1931, and Gypsy Ballads, 1928 — inspired by Andalusian or gypsy culture and music.
He also had an intense relationship with Salvador Dalí from 1925 to 1928, which forced him to acknowledge his homosexuality. He became a national celebrity upon the publication of Gypsy Ballads, and was distressed at the loss of privacy this caused; he chafed at the conflict between his public persona and his private self. He grew depressed, and a falling out with Dalí and the end of another love affair with a sculptor only made things worse. In 1929, his family arranged for him to take an extended trip to the United States. It was in New York that he began to break out of his pigeonhole as a “gypsy poet.” He wrote A Poet in New York (published posthumously in 1942), a collection that was critical of capitalism and obsessed with urban decay and social injustice.
He turned back to drama when he returned to Spain in 1930. He wrote and premiered the first two plays in his Rural Trilogy: Blood Wedding (1933) and Yerma (1934), and completed the first draft of the third, The House of Bernarda Alba (1945).
In 1936, the Spanish Civil War broke out, and the Nationalists didn’t look favorably on his work or his liberal views. They dragged him from his home on August 16 and imprisoned him without a trial; two or three days later, they drove him to a hill outside of town and shot him. His body was never found.