You may think a long book published anonymously in 1554 would be A-B-U-R-R-I-D-O (BORING). But what if I told you this book contains topics that are making headlines today?
Issues like censorship, income inequality, FOMO, racism, police/authoritative brutality, infidelity, open relationships, child abuse, and more are seen through the lens of a poor boy from a small town in Spain near the river Tormes. The boy, Lazarillo is essentially given away into servitude so that he can survive.
Throughout his childhood and adolescence he suffers starvation and abuse. It sounds bleak, and it is! But that was the point, and why it is a revolutionary text!
This is the text that introduced the idea of the “antihero” into Spanish literature. Previous literature in Spain was based on regal or war heros – soldiers, generals, knights, kings, etc.
Lazarillo de Tormes was penned and published by an anonymous writer who feared making their identity known since their work touched upon SO MANY taboo topics of the time. This fear was justified, as the Church and royalty would have come down hard on someone reflecting the dire conditions of the common folk, pointing out the hypocrisy of the clergy, and in general shattering the carefully curated image of Spanish society.
At the same time, this book is frequently humorous. Lazarillo gets into so many shenanigans trying to trick and finagle his way through his obstacle-filled life. It also makes us as readers reflect on the morality of the different situations that Lazarillo finds himself in. Is it wrong to steal when one is starving? Is Lazarillo a sinner for finding joy in others’ funerals? If your spouse is cheating on someone but the affair is putting a roof over your head and food on your plate, would you mind? Rae Spanish highly recommends this groundbreaking literature!
Have you read Lazarillo de Tormes? Have we piqued your interest? What do you think?
Text difficulty level: Advanced
This text is a required text in AP Spanish Literature