Gypsy Ballads
Federico Garcia Lorca
1928

Romancero Gitano in its original Spanish, this is the best-known poetry collection of poet and playwright Garcia Lorca, murdered in the early weeks of the Spanish Civil War, almost certainly by fascist forces. A major figure in Spain’s inter-war-years avant-garde with film-maker Luis Bunuel and surrealist painter Salvador Dali, Lorca stood at the centre of an important group of cutting-edge artists and writers, and rose to near-rock-star prominence in the late ’20s and early-mid 30s.

As Spain slid toward fascism and civil war, the previously- apolitical Lorca increasingly began to touch on political themes in his work and speech; though by no means a political radical, and with continued friendships on both sides of the conflict, his criticisms and open homosexuality certainly put him at odds with significant portions of the far right. Confusions and contradictions remain, however, as Lorca’s own politics and his reputation on the Spanish far right were never especially clear-cut – upon his death, fascist periodicals lionized Lorca as the greatest of Spanish imperial poets while his work was simultaneously banned by the very same government until 1953.

Authenticity and superficiality in history and culture; isolation, depression and the alienation of the artist in mass consumer culture; love, homoeroticism, and death – Lorca visits all of these regularly in his poems and plays. It is not for the particular topical content of the work, though, that Gypsy Ballads is so significant. Exploring traditional poetic form and subject matter through the lens of the avant-garde, the collection constituted a synthesis of old and new in Spanish poetry and marked a new literary territory where classicism meets modernity.

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