Spanish Literature, Art And Culture

One real advantage to learning a foreign language is the wealth of cultural bonuses that it delivers to the learner. It would be almost meaningless to master French, for example, without using your gift to discover the poetry of Baudelaire, the majestic writings of Albert Camus or the films of Truffaut. By learning Spanish, you will be unlocking a similarly rich treasure trove of cultural wonders. A nation with Spain’s rich and varied (and often troubled) past cannot help but provide great art. For good reason it is said that great artists are formed in troubled times, times of change and uncertainty.

Perhaps one of the founding classics not only of Spanish literature but of Western literature as a whole is Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The phrase “tilting at windmills”, commonly used in English to describe the act of taking on an imaginary enemy, comes from a scene in this book – as do a great many phrases used as modern Spanish idioms. As an influential piece of literature, Cervantes’ masterwork is difficult to gainsay. From Franco’s era in the early-to-mid 20th Century a number of renowned authors were forged, perhaps the most influential and popular being Federico Garcia Lorca, whose Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding) is particularly unforgettable.

The influence of Spanish on great works of art and literature is not limited to Spain itself. From the past century alone, there has been the Magical Realist movement, most famously embodied by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s incredible novels Cien años de Soledad (100 Years of Solitude) and El Coronel no tiene quién le escriba (No-one Writes To The Colonel). Marquez, now 81, is still viewed as a massively influential voice in the world of literature in his native Colombia and beyond. Also worth reading are Jorge Luis Borges and, more recently, the Mexican Carlos Fuentes.

This is to say nothing of the wonderful paintings of artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, nor the internationally renowned films of Pedro Almodovar (at present, every new Almodovar film is awaited like the Second Coming), all of which have informed and been informed by the Spanish language. Explore for yourself and remember that, although all of the above works have either been translated into English or are non-verbal, there is always something lost in translation.

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