Reviews and Critiques by Rictor Norton

Theatre of Love and Death

A review of Lorca's The Public by Rafael Martinez Nadal (Calder & Boyars, 1974)

"All day I am possessed by the poetic activity of a factory, and in the evening I throw myself into what is man's due, a full-bloodied Andalusian's due, the bacchic feast of flesh and laughter." Such was Federico Garcia Lorca's programme for the good life.

Despite the oddity of analysing a play that has never been published (Lorca's heirs are mysteriously reticent about releasing The Public to the puglic), this is an exciting book. Nadal's many first-hand anecdotes about Lorca, and abundant quotations from his poetry, give ample falvour of this Andalusian's zest for life and exquisitely sensuous semi-surrealistic visions.

Lorca's assassination by the Franco regilme in 1936 made him unusually popular among European critics, but the intrinsic merit of his work – e.g. The House of Bernarda Alba, Blood Wedding, Verma, Ode to Walt Whitman, Poet in New York – firmly establishes his reputation as one of the finest dramatists and poets of modern times. Certainly his stature as an openly homosexual writer is nearly equal to that of Jean Genet – though his ability to create women characters ultimately makes him the finer artist.

The Public is Lorca's best drama, though unpublished [i.e. at the time of this review], and its theme is the universality of homosexual love. The equality of gayi and het is convincingly demonstrated in the work, with, as Nadal says, "a frankness and courage not yet seen on the westerns tage." Nadal's study will hopefully provoke the publication of the full text.

Half of the study is devoted to themes of love and death in Lorca's other plays and poetry. Inevitably Lorca adopted the Spanish machismo, and he glorifies the masculine homosexual to the detriment of "effeminacy". Nevertheless there remains a magnificent corpus of pro-gay literature with profound insights into all human experience. Sentimentalists may not agree with Lorca's primary theme that all love is mere chance, be it gay or het or even bestial. But few can fail to appreciate his rich use of the Spanish cultural tradition, so impressively revealed by Nadal's astute – and unprejudiced – guidelines to understanding Lorca's labyrinth of sexual symbols and fantastic masks.

(This review was originally published in London's Gay News in 1974. Copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. This review may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the author.)

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