The history of Spain has been marked by all types of events, wars, conquests, marriages, deaths… and literature has played an important part in it. From the epic tale of the “Cantar del Mio Cid” to the surrealism present in some of Cela‘s works; from the amazing adventures of Don Quixote to the many books recounting the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, Spanish literature has had it’s own way of influencing history. Literature is a very important subject in all Spanish schools, and this site is a guide to the evolution of Spanish literature across the centuries.
Best Spanish Books
- El Cantar del Mio Cid, which tells the story of the legendary hero Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar.
- Don Quixote, the most important book of all the Spanish literature, written by Miguel de Cervantes.
- Lazarillo de Tormes, the novel which launched the genre of the picaresque novel.
- Romancero Gitano, the most famous Spanish book of poems, dedicated to the gypsy world.
Spanish literature has a huge array of must-read books, but to read them all would take you uncountable years. These are the most iconic works of the Spanish literature, from the first manifestation during the 12th century to the great poems of Federico Garcia Lorca.
Spanish Literature – The beginnings
The history of Spanish literature starts with “El Cantar del Mio Cid” (12th century), an epic narrative that was transmitted orally through the story tellers. However, the first written testimonies of Spanish literature begin in the 13th century with the Middle-Ages literature, which cultivated all the genres in prose, poetry and theatre. The end of the Middle Ages (sometimes known as pre-Renaissance period) is a very prolific time for Spanish literature, with the development of works like “Coplas a la muerte de mi padre” (Jorge Manrique) and “La Celestina” (Fernando de Rojas).
During the Renaissance the influence of Italy in Spain was very strong, and thus the religious influence. During this period there’s a big production of religious works with authors such as Fray Luis de Leon or San JUan de la Cruz. Pastoral or didactic novels were also quite popular, and the picaresque genre became popular with “Lazarillo de Tormes”
Spanish Literature – Baroque period
The Spanish Baroque coincides with the Golden Age of Spanish literature, called that way because of the great number of excellent literary productions that appeared in the period. Miguel de Cervantes is, without doubt, the ultimate Baroque author. His masterpiece, the adventures of the mad knight “Don Quixote”, is considered the most important book of the Spanish literature and one of the most important in the Universal literature. Other important authors in this period are the poet Quevedo and the play writer Lope de Vega.
Spanish Literature – Enlightenment period
The Enlightenment period in Spanish literature can be divided in three different periods: the post-Baroque period, the Neo-Classical period and the pre-Romanticism period. The Enlightenment wants a break with the old concept of authority, and thinks reason is more important than feeling or emotions. This is why this period doesn’t have a strong poetry group. In prose, essays and didactic texts are the most popular types of works, especially among literates. Newspapers help to spread the knowledge of other European countries around Spain.
Spanish Literature – Romanticism and Realism
Romanticism appears as a reaction against the strict rules of the Enlightenment, and in opposition to it, it places more importance in feelings than reason. Romanticism can be divided into two different movements: traditional Romanticism (defends the traditional values represented by the Church and State) and liberal Romanticism (fights the established order, religion, art and politics, and claims the rights of individuals to society and the laws).
Realism appears when literates have grown tired of the subjectivism of Romanticism and are looking for something more real. They were tired of the imaginative and colorful, and sought to observe the people, society and contemporary traditions objectively. Its goal was to present the truest portrait of society.
Spanish Literature – 20th century
The 20th century is a century of great change in Spain. There’s not a specific movement. Rather, every author develops his or her own personal style. Novels become the most popular genre, and social themes are very common, especially those related to life in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and the following dictatorship. There are three important generations of writers during the 20th century that configure the Spanish literature of the period: Generation of ’98, Generation of ’14 and Generation of ’27.
If you ever study Spanish, reading some of the works of these great Spanish authors will give you an added knowledge into the Spanish way of life.
Most important Spanish books:
- Cantar del Mio Cid: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/cantar-del-mio-cid.html
- Don Quixote: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/16th-cent-baroque-cervantes-quijote.html
- Lazarillo de Tormes: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/lazarillo-de-tormes.html
- Romancero Gitano: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/federico-garcia-lorca-romancero-gitano.html
- Spanish Literature: 16th-17th century: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/16th-cent-baroque-history.html
- Spanish Literature: 18th century: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/18th-cent-enlightenment-history.html
- Spanish Literature: 19th century: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/19th-cent-history.html
- Spanish Literature: 20th century: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/20th-cent-history.html
- Contemporary Spanish Literature: https://www.classicspanishbooks.com/contemporary-spanish-literature.html
- Vídeo: https://historyofspain.es/en/video/the-history-of-spanish-literature/