Speech given by Federico García Lorca
inauguration of his village’s library
On May 19th , 1929, in a banquet offered by his fellows
villagers to celebrate the success of the inauguration in Granada
of “Mariana Pineda”, Federico García Lorca
brought out the proposition to create a public library in Fuente
Vaqueros. Rafael Sánchez,
baker of the village and organizer of the feast, supported the initiative offering
three hundred volumes of his property.
A few later, on
the poet’s suggestion was brought to the Mayor to have his
official approval. Federico was nominated in charge of the public and official
inauguration in September 1931, during Fuente
At the opening of the act,
Federico read a beautiful and highly favourable speech on his birth village,
with pronounced dialectic accent, extolling the value of books, of reading them
and the value of culture in general. He also offered the books he had written
together with those of his friends and asked for more volumes the “Residencia de Estudiantes” of Madrid, and “Editorial Ulises”.
The war cut of
the project, which was fulfilled ahead in democratic times. The doors of a new
library situated on
the first floor of the Town hall’s
edifice are now open.
“Half a bread and a book
When somebody goes to the theatre, a concert, or whatever
event; if the feast pleased him he automatically remember his lover ones and
feel sad about their absence. “How much my father, my sister, would like to be
here and enjoy”, he would think. And for him, the spectacle is shadowed with a
tiny melancholy. This is the melancholy I now feel, not for the people of my
house, which would be small and mean; but for all the creatures who because of
a lack of possibilities and for their unhappiness, are unable to enjoy the
supreme goods of life, which are beauty, serenity and passion.
Because of that I never have a book, because I give
all the ones I buy, which is a huge quantity. This is why I am here, honoured
and happy to inaugurate this public library, which would be the first in the
whole Province of
Not only from bread lives the man. If I would have to
be hungry and helpless in the street, I would not ask for bread, but I would
ask half a bread and a book. And I attack from here
with violence those who only talk about economic claims without never mentioning the cultural ones, which are the ones people
need and ask for, shouting at the top of their voices.
All people must eat, it is a need. But all people must
also know how to enjoy all the fruits of the human spirit, because the contrary
would convert them into machines to the service of the State, which means into
slaves of a terrible social organization.
A man who wants to learn and cannot
makes me feel terribly sorry, much more than a hungry one does. Because he can be easily helped by a piece of bread or some fruits.
But the man of no means who long for knowledge suffers a terrible agony,
because what he needs are books, books, many books, and where are those books?
Books! Books! What a magic word! It is like
saying: “love, love”, and the villages must claim for
them like they do claim for rain to water their sowing.
When the famous Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky,
father of the Russian revolution much more than Lenin, was prisoner
in Siberia, far away of people,
closed into four walls amid of desolated prairies covered by never ending snow;
and was asking for help writing to his far away family, he only said : “Send me
books, books, a lot of books in order my soul would not die!” He was cold and
did not ask for fire, he was terribly thirsty and did not ask for water: he
only asked for books, which means horizons; which means ladders to climb
to the top
of their spirit and heart. Because the physical, biological, natural agony of a
body due to hunger, thirst or cold, lasts little, during a very short time;
instead the agony of the soul lasts the whole life.
The great Menéndez Pidal, one of the most credible learned historian writer of Europe, already
said that the slogan for the Republic must be “Culture”. Culture because only
through culture can be solved, the problems of the people of today, full of
faith, but lacking of light. “
Dostoyevski paint in 1872
by Wassilij Grigorjewitsch Perow
It seems that
Federico García Lorca was shot by night, on August 16 to 17,
1936 ; but some doubts remain over the exact date. He was arrested on August
16, and what is most probable is that he was murdered this same day at dusk. I
began to write these pages dedicated to him, the day before yesterday, which
was Tuesday. Today is Thursday, August
18, 2011, at 10,11 a.m. At same time, 75 years ago,
Federico, the great poet, must have finished to suffer. He loved life and tried
to take all the good juice out of it , to enjoy the
most he could the short time given to him. It looks like he instinctively knew
about this shortness and hurried to learn, to voyage, to write... leaving to
the prosperity a huge baggage of excellent works. By no means
he deserved being murdered so cruelly. He now rests in peace; but I
imagine that all the coward people involved in this
horrible unjustifiable crime would never be able to forget and remorse would
haunt them without end during the rest of their lives.
The olive tree
behind which they say Federico was shot
Because we are remembering Federico’s
tragic death, I allow me to include a paper of mine dedicated to Federico and
read in the VI International Convention of Writers in European Languages that
took place in 1998, under the direction of
former president: Emilio Zamanillo. It is a little late indeed, but as it
remained unpublished , I do it now, in this issue of
Talking with Federico
”Hola”, Federico ! I would like to talk with you. I hope I can.
I hope it is possible, because life has no end, because it is only
changing, integrating, depending of the new circumstances. I search about you,
Federico, because I want you to understand me; I want you feeling my writing to
you, but I do not know until what limits is that possible. All people are now loving you; they all remember your words, and some
are able to recite your verses by heart. In what huge manner things are
changing! How many revolutions they are enduring! Remember how much you dreaded
never be understood as you need to be!
And now, if you
could come with your man’s body, people would “adore” you, sit you on a throne
and parade you on all the streets and spots, not only of Spain, but of the whole world.
They laugh at
you because your body was not strong , because you had
delicate taste, because you cultivated the sensitivity of woman’s genes, this
sensitivity that the men of your time struggled to avoid , to not let take
roots in them. They were afraid to look less virile. This sensibility even took
you away from women, because they were attracted by quite the opposite look in
a man. Of all that the “education” was guilty, for being
inappropriate, or for a complete lack of it. The power was for the strongest
in all matter: physically and mentally speaking ; with
a high consideration for themselves and none for other people ; capable of the
worst if necessary to wine or maintain a predominant place with
the slogan “might is right” they acted as gods,
bad gods. But another power exists, an almighty power. It is the power of the
soul, of the human spirit. This power is too often ignored. The memory of the
people who reach it never died and get stronger with the passage of centuries.
You who were so
afraid of death, you still had luck ; because they did
not close you into a coffin ; because they did not cremate your remains ;
because in spite of being dead, you escaped your executioners who were not able
to find your body. Mother nature took you in her arms
and hide you in her bowels. She made herbs, flowers and insects come out of you : the very tiny lives you so much loved.
And your mind,
Federico, I am sure she is now melted in the Light, in the Divine Essence of
Compassion, in the almighty and infinite fluid of the Universe, in God.
In the time you
had a man’s body, the conscience of the world was not sufficiently evolved to
understand you. But now, now you are understood and loved. Your poems are
taught in school,
about you as you deserve.
You was born in
an obscure moment where those who had some education and knowledge had to hide
it. Professors were afraid to teach the truth because the majority searched the
salvation in the dark, admiring what was physically strong in men. For a timid
and noble person like you, it was no place to live in peace.
You had to
struggle a lot to make you accepted as the skilled and exceptional artist you
were. It was a time you even feel capable to make the very demon kneel before you.
And I think you did it, but in this state of life you are now, in this
transcendence all of us would like to know before reaching it. Because we are
human, Federico, we know nothing of the other side, and we are afraid, we fear
it the same you did, and even more.
And now, I proceed to transcribe some of your words, in order people would understand you still
better. You allow me to do so, true, Federico. Then, abide my hand and be my
guide to search the most representative sentences revealing your soul, what you
would like people to know.
“I find it cowardliness, the Carthusian
behaviour. They long to live near God,
going away from the people ... but I do ask : who is
this God that Carthusians are looking for? Of
course it cannot be Jesus ... No, no ... If those unlucky men, because of
bad experiences in their lives, would dream
about the doctrine of Christ, they would not enter the path of penitence, but the
path of charity. ... The only true path is the one of charity: the love people grant
to other people. ... The soul has a need of love, of being madly in love; a
need of melting together with another soul ... a need to shout, to cry, to call
those unhappy people closed into cells to meditate; to call them in order they
wake up; to tell them there is a sun, a moon and women, and music; call them,
make them think by themselves, awake their soul that stands in oration’s
darkness; sing to them something optimist and agreeable ... but the silence
involves them into a Gregorian and passionate chant.”
“I have composed some poems to the cuckoo ... and the
dreams of the river; little poems I feel inside, in the deep of my unhappy
heart. You have no idea about how huge is my suffering when I see myself
reflected in the poems... I saw an admirable book to do and I would like to do it myself : It is “Meditation and joy of the water” ... I
see a great poem, between Oriental and Christian-European, of the water, a poem
where broad poems in verse or prose are chanted... The passionate life and the torments
of the water...”
“Why so much repugnance towards
some net and brilliant insects moving so gracefully amid the herbs? And why you, men, full of sins
and incurable vices, felt so great a revulsion at the seeing of those good worms
walking in peace through the meadow, taking the sun of the tepid morning? What
motive do you have to despise the tiniest things of the Nature? So long you do
not love profoundly the stone and the worm, you will
not enter in the kingdom
I do not allow
me to terminate this paper without mentioning the answer given by you to a
friend asking you: “What is for you the real significance of the life ? ” :
“Life is a joke in front of a string of death. Is looking ahead from the growling man towards the love abiding in
the heart of the people. Is to be the wind and ripple the water of the
river. Is to come from nowhere and go nowhere, and be everywhere surrounded by tears.”
Earth was not born,
my soul dwelling?
Did I already exist
stardust of the cosmos?
universe that never began,
universe for ever voyaging:
starting, never arriving,
Earth was not born,
your soul dwelling?
In which star,
seeds begot ?
García Lorca, María
Teresa León and Rafael Alberti
the obscure doves
To Claudio Guillén
version by Mariette
Amid laurel branches
I saw obscures doves:
One was the sun,
the other the moon.
“Little neighbours”, I said
“where stands my grave”
“In my tail”, said the sun.
“In my throat”, said the moon.
When I was walking
with earth on my waist
I saw two snow eagles
with a naked girl.
One was the other
and the girl no one.
“Little eagles”, I said,
“where stands my grave?”
“In my tail”, said the sun.
“In my throat”, said the moon.
Amid laurel branches
I saw two naked doves.
One was the other
and the two were no one.
Federico García Lorca