By Tim Hazell
Federico García Lorca’s life embraced the Spanish Civil War, which ultimately devoured him. The poet and playwright embodied the spirit of his native Andalusia. Elements of folklore, combined with surrealism, placed him in a genre by himself. Lorca was born in 1898 and soon began to demonstrate a precocious talent. Despite the somber aspect of his poetry, he was an ebullient, versatile writer and an accomplished musician. The bulls of Andalusia confront a nameless stranger who walks without casting a shadow in this section from “Absent Soul.”
The bull does not know you, nor the fig tree, nor the horses, nor the ants in your own house.
The child and the afternoon do not know you because you have died forever.
Lorca’s work was first published in 1918 as a book of prose, Impressions and Landscapes. Spanish infatuation for the bullfight surfaced in plays such as Yerma (1934), chronicling the bleak existence of a barren woman who murders her indifferent husband. Although Lorca traveled widely, he shared an affinity with Pablo Picasso in that he remained the eternal son of Spain. Looming clouds of civil war are everywhere in the following “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias.”
The wind carried away the cottonwool at five in the afternoon.
And the oxide scattered crystal and nickel at five in the afternoon.
Now the dove and the leopard wrestle at five in the afternoon.
And a thigh with a desolated horn at five in the afternoon.
Phalangist soldiers, under the orders of General Franco, arrested Lorca on August 9, 1936, at the outset of the Spanish Civil War. The poet was taken to a field, shot, and dumped in an unmarked grave. Intent on erasing every vestige of the writer’s memory, the Fascist regime prohibited the publication of his books and even references to his name. Tyranny only succeeded in turning him into a symbol of political oppression. Foreign pressure began to loosen Franco’s grip in the 1970s. Public outcry resulted in the reinstatement of Lorca’s work as among the finest Spain has ever produced.
Spanish cooks revel in their country’s cornucopia of ingredients: pork, ham, and sausage from the countryside; Atlantic anchovies, cod and tuna; Mediterranean olives and garlic; and Moorish seasonings of saffron and almonds from the South. This Andalusian recipe calls for tuna but can be made just with onion, garlic, and peppers.
Bonito and Onion
1-2 lbs. sliced fresh tuna or other fish (optional)
4 onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 green bell peppers, seeded and julienned
Pinch of salt and black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Gently fry the onion, garlic, and pepper strips over low heat until tender and almost caramelized. If using tuna, remove the skin and bone from the center. Divide into thick fillets, season with salt and pepper, and add to the vegetables. Fry fish until just cooked. Serve with lime wedges.