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History of Spanish literature

Spanish Literature: Lazarillo de Tormes

El Lazarillo de Tormes

Considered the first modern novel, “Lazarillo” unveiled a classic novel genre called the picaresque. This form of writing continued well into 20th century with “La Familia de Pascal Duarte” by Nobel Prize winner Camilo José Cela.

The main features of these books are:

“El Lazarillo de Tormes” unveiled this movement, which would be continued by other novels such as “Guzmán de Alfarache” or “El Buscón” by Fancisco de Quevedo.

The protagonist is Lázaro de Tormes who was born in Salamanca, in the waters of the river. When he was still a little boy his mum sent him to accompany a blind man because she could not afford to feed him. The young boy loses his innocence through the cunning deeds of the blind man. But after abandoning him, things go from bad to worse for Lázaro. He is the prototype of the anti-hero. Up until this point stories about knights had been full of idealized heroes who went on incredible adventures, but here the main character is a human full of flaws, one that makes mistakes. The book was persecuted by the Spanish inquisition, which only permitted the publication of some of the chapters. The novel was not known as a whole until the 19th century.

At this point literature was in the middle of the Renaissance. It had changed from the theocentricism (belief that God is the central aspect of our existence) to the Middle Ages, to the Humanist anthropocentrism (belief that life centers around us). Man, with all his virtues and flaws, is the center of the novel. Critics have said that glimpses of the economic crisis that would arise in Spain during the following reign of the Asturias family can be seen in this novel. It was a crisis that would last for centuries, during which time the Empire would fall but by bit until it disappeared completely at the end of the 19th century.