The Spanish Language Blog

Spain has a great literary tradition and many of its great classics have become a benchmark of world literature. The use of the language and traditions of Spain have made these classics go down in history, so many of them have been translated into other languages.

The richness of Spanish is immense and, if you are learning Spanish as a second language, you need to know some of the most famous classic Spanish books. Understand the long tradition behind these classics and how the language has evolved over time to make your experience in the adventure of learning Spanish complete.

Here are 12 classics of literature in Spanish from the beginning of time to some more current ones. If you prefer to read this article in Spanish, you can click on this link.

La Celestina - Fernando de Rojas

The first Spanish literature book that must be highlight is La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas. This tragicomedy tells the story of how Calisto allies with Celestina, a cunning and Machiavellian procuress, to get his beloved Melibea, the daughter of a rich merchant.

This book is considered one of the most important works of Spanish Renaissance literature and is catalogued as one of the first modern novels of the 15th century. In addition, La Celestina is a story that criticizes the society of the time, while at the same time it unites love and passion through its characters, which made this book a success.

El Lazarillo de Tormes - Anonymous

Its author is still unknown, but around 1554 El Lazarillo de Tormes was published. A picaresque novel written in epistolary form that has been the subject of studies and adaptations throughout the centuries and that revolutionized the narrative of its time.

This classic Spanish novel tells the story of a boy named Lazaro who serves several masters while trying to survive in 16th century Spain. A story that also criticized the society of the time, the inequalities among the population and that has transcended in time.

Don Quixote of La Mancha - Miguel de Cervantes

Undoubtedly, the classic work of Spanish literature par excellence: Don Quijote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. The first part was published in 1605 and the second in 1615. A story that narrates the adventures of the nobleman Don Quixote and his faithful squire Sancho Panza, as they travel through the region of La Mancha in search of adventure.

Don Quijote de la Mancha is one of the most important classic Spanish novels worldwide and has been translated into several languages. It is also on the list of the most read books of all time.

Fuenteovejuna - Lope de Vega

Let’s move on to the theater genre with Fuenteovejuna, a play written by Lope de Vega. A story based on a real event that occurred in the town of Fuente Obejuna, Cordoba. In this play by Lope de Vega, the inhabitants of a small-town rebel against the abuse of power of a comendador (knight commander).

In addition, this play is the origin of the well-known phrase: “Todos a una como Fuenteovejuna” (All together as Fuenteovejuna). A united village stand up to tyranny and abuses of power to fight for the defense of justice. A reflection on values and ethics that has reached our days.

Life is a dream (La vida es sueño) - Calderón de la Barca

La vida es sueño (Life is a dream) is a baroque play that deals with themes such as destiny, free will and illusion. It tells the story of Prince Segismundo, who has been imprisoned since birth by his father for fear of a prophecy that foretold him a destiny as a villain.

This play is one of the most outstanding plays of the Golden Age and has been the subject of thousands of philosophical and symbolic interpretations over time.

Don Juan Tenorio - José Zorrilla

Another outstanding play of Spanish literature is Don Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla. A story based on the legend of Don Juan, but in a more dramatic version published in the 19th century.

One of the most representative classics Spanish books of the romantic theater and has been adapted on numerous occasions for the stage. In this story, the seductive Don Juan Tenorio defies the social and religious norms of the time, where he must face death to redeem himself for his sins.

La Regenta - Leopoldo Alas “Clarín”

La Regenta is a realistic novel that tells the story of Ana Ozores, a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage and entangled in the intrigues of the provincial society of Vetusta. The town of Vetusta is characterized by its vanity and hypocrisy, so this classic offers a very critical portrait of the hypocrisy and morality of the society of the time.

This story of Leopoldo Alas “Clarín” is one of the masterpieces of the Spanish realist narrative of the 19th century.

Los Pazos de Ulloa - Emilia Pardo Bazán

One of Emilia Pardo Bazán's most important and well-known works: Los Pazos de Ulloa. This naturalistic novel follows the conflicts between the rural aristocracy and the peasants in an oppressive and decadent environment of deepest rural Galicia.

Emilia Pardo Bazán was one of the most prominent figures of Spanish naturalism and a pioneer in the struggle for women's rights in literature and society.

Fortunata y Jacinta - Benito Pérez Galdós

Benito Pérez Galdós is one of the most important novelists of Spanish realism and Fortunata y Jacinta is considered one of his masterpieces. This story tells the complex relationship between two women, Fortunata and Jacinta, both in love with the same man, but one as a lover and the other as a wife.

A love triangle in 19th century Madrid, which tells the life of these two women, and gives a vision of the slums in which Fortunata lives, and the aristocratic environment of the bourgeois Jacinta.

Bohemian Lights (Luces de Bohemia) - Valle Inclán

Valle Inclán's play that has been considered a precursor of the theater of the absurd par excellence. Luces de Bohemia (Bohemian Lights) follows the misadventures of the blind poet Max Estrella and his companion Don Latino de Hispalis, as they wander through the bohemian and decadent Madrid of the 20th century.

It is one of the most innovative and provocative plays of modern Spanish theater and marked a turning point in Spanish dramaturgy. It has also been performed on stage on several occasions in recent years.

The House of Bernarda Alba (La Casa de Bernarda Alba) - Federico García Lorca

One of the writers par excellence of Spanish literature and a great poet of the Generation of '27 is Federico García Lorca. Among his most outstanding works is La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba), his last play.

This Spanish literary classic explores themes of repression, gender oppression and freedom through a conservative Spanish family in intense conflict. When Bernarda Alba's second husband dies, she imposes an 8-day mourning period on her five daughters, but a love triangle with a man and two of her daughters threatens Bernarda's control over her own home.

Nothing (Nada) - Carmen Laforet

Finally, Nada (Nothing) by Carmen Laforet. This novel follows the story of Andrea, a young woman who arrives in Barcelona to study at the university and finds an oppressive and dysfunctional family at her grandmother's house.

Nada is one of the most important works of 20th century Spanish narrative and is considered a key exponent of existentialist literature in Spain. In addition, Carmen Laforet won the Nadal Prize with this novel, which made it an instant success and a benchmark of the post-war Spanish literary scene.

Although, there are so many more classic Spanish novels along the way, but you can continue exploring Spanish authors and their works on your own. These are some authors that may interest you: Antonio Machado, Miguel Delibes, Carmen Martín Gaite, Ana María Matute, Mercè Rodoreda, Miguel de Unamuno or Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. All of them have very well-known works that have marked a before and after in Spanish literature.

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