The Literature of the Spanish People: From Roman Times to the Present Day

By Gerald Brenan | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THE scope and purpose of this book require a few words of explanation. This is the history of a literature. Unlike most such histories, however, it does not confine itself to books written in one language, but describes the literary productions of a people--in this case the Spanish people--in whatever language they may have been written, from the earliest times to the present day.

Let me show what in practice this amounts to. The first chapter treats of the Latin literature of the Peninsula, written during the Roman and Visigothic periods, but only in so far as it can be considered to be truly Spanish. That is to say, it attempts to show the native element in these writings emerging from the Roman and West Mediterranean. Even Prudentius, thoroughly Spanish in feeling and education though he is, has been examined solely from this angle.

The next chapter, which is longer, discusses the brilliant and sophisticated literature that was written in Arabic. Here there are really two subjects--the classical literature in prose and verse, in which it is not possible to distinguish any specifically Spanish element, and the popular poetry of what we may call the jongleurs. Of the first I should have had nothing to say, especially as I do not read Arabic, if it had not seemed to me that the kind of images and conceits found in this poetry deserved mention for the reason that later on, in the seventeenth century, much the same kind of imagery reappears in a Baroque context. One cannot see Góngora or the Andalusian poets who followed him in their proper perspective--nor, for that matter, Juan Ramón Jiménez or García Lorca--unless one realises that they were obeying a tendency peculiar to their race and environment.

With regard to the second kind of Spanish Arabic poetry--

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