Book Review: Federico Garcia Lorca A Life by Ian GibsonWhen I first received this book in the post I was very excited due to the fact I am a huge Lorca fan and have enjoyed many of Gibsons books. Anyone with any interest in poetry, drama, music or any thing to do with Spanish studies and history will at some stage come across the great writer Federico Garcia Lorca, and possibly fall in love with his work like myself, and if you are a Lorca fan, this book is a must.

Aswell as giving you in-depth insight in to the man, his work, his fellow writer and artists friends work (Dali, Falla, Bunuel)  it also delivers great detail  into Spain at that time, especially during the 1930s, when political turmoil, growing unease and tit for tat fighting was starting to take shape before developing in to the horrific civil war that would soon take the life of Lorca.

This book (for a slow reader like me) is huge, 500 pages, but impossible to put down due to Gibsons excellent research and gripping story telling. The book begins with Lorcas childhood in Fuente Vaqueros near Granada in rural Andalusia and his development as a great piano player and his journey into his teens and poetry. The great thing about Gibson as a researcher and writer is that he will not only describe the exact moment or scene of the Poets life, but, he will also dive in to surrounding interesting material such as why this happened, the history of the place or person, especially if another person enters the scene, Gibson will give great detail but not overloading your brain at the same time.

Coming from a prosperous as well as an artistic talented family, Lorca was always destined to be gifted in the arts but not academia as his father would have hoped. As Lorca developed in to the poet in his teens, he was also realising he was homosexual in an era that frowned immensely upon this especially the staunch Catholic church and through most of his short life, tried his best to conceal this from the public which right through the book, Gibson really makes you feel Lorcas anguish.

The book really describes Lorca’s energy, behavior and personality to the extent that you feel you are standing right beside him. From his younger days with a group of writers called The Rinconcillo (group of young Grenadine artists, writers and intellectuals hanging out in Cafe Almeda), to his interest and first play (which was a failure) to his strong relationship and friendships with Dali (which Gibson shows the passion and anguish of love) and Manuel De Falla the famous composer, really exciting times. You also get the feeling from Lorca of the family pressures to make money from his career and to be successful which drove the poet to a state of great hunger for success.

As soon as Gypsy Ballads was published, his first major work to be greatly recognized, Lorca was an instant celebrity and you can feel the impact of the work the book had on the people by Gibsons exciting revelations. For such a short life, the poet achieved much greatness. From his trip to New York during the Stock Market Crash of 1929 to touring Cuba, to his setting up of La Barraca, a student Theater group that traveled Spain bringing famous plays to the peasants and poor, his mastery of Puppet plays, music composing, drawings and of course poetry and theater, by the end of reading this book, you see that 500 pages is actually not enough for Gibson to further bring us along on the journey of this great life.

Two instances in his life stand out to me here, one, was his meeting with the famous actress of the time, Margarita Xirgu, whom he gave his play, Marina Pineda too (one thing I loved discovering was that playwrights gave their plays to the actress/actor to produce), and was to go on and become one of his closet friends and performers in his greater plays of Blood Wedding and Yerma and the development of their relationship is brilliantly brought together by Gibsons well researched account.

The second, is his trip to Argentina, where his play Blood Wedding was been staged to great acclaim. On his arrival to Buenos Aires, the city and country where so ecstatic to see the poet that at times he was unable to go anywhere without causing a frenzy and this led me to think that you really do not get that these days with modern poets or playwrights and this type of drama for Lorca brings and big grin to my face to the fact that a writer could cause such a commotion and drive the people of a country to an emotional state.

Yes, there is so much going on in this book that by the time you get near the last chapters, following the cultural battles and changes in Spain between the Monarchs and Church against the Republic which coincide in Gibsons developments of Lorcas activities, his research into the last unsettling days of the poet, his capture and eventually his horrific murder, you really are lost for words simply because Gibsons brilliant work has just brought you along a surreal journey of one of the greatest poets and dramatists from childhood to premature death of 38 years old, one can only think, and believe, that Lorca was just beginning his journey and would have had many other masterpieces up his sleeve to share with the world.

Do I recommend this book to just poets, writers or intellectuals, hell no, I recommend it to anyone interested in people daring to live outside the box (Lorcas play The Public was way before his time) and to bring energy and life to people through the gathering of word. This book will be enjoyed by anyone, there is material here for people interested in history, poetry, plays, music, painting, the literary avid, the political student and for any lover of Lorcas work, this can be the Bible.

Ian Gibson spent a huge part of his life researching for this book and it has been written brilliantly without sentiment and the balance between the private and personal aspects of the poets life has been written objectively, and to me a truly amazing biography that you will not want to put down or do not get to read too often.

Where To Find It?

It is a hard enough book to locate but do check out your local book store and if you can not find it check out the few left at Amazon  Or if you know me, feel free to borrow.

About The Author:

Ian Gibson was born in Dublin in 1939 but now lives in Spain.  He is a historian, and author of numerous biographies and books on Spanish history. Some of his books have caused controversy by his investigation into the assassination in Granada of Lorca during the dictator Franco’s lifetime.