Search of Duende (New Directions Bibelot) Paperback – 1 Apr 1998
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Spain s great poet and playwright is being rediscovered."
One of the greatest poets Spain has ever produced. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Christopher Maurer, professor of Spanish and chair of Romance Studies at Boston University, is the author of eight books, including the award-winning "Fortune's Favorite Child: The Uneasy Life of Walter Anderson".
Langston Hughes (1902 1967) was born in Joplin, Missouri, and lived much of his life in Harlem, New York. As one America s most cherished chroniclers of the black experience, known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes s work was constantly groundbreaking throughout his forty-six-year career. His poetry about the ocean and the symbolism that surrounds it stems from his travels through Africa and Europe working as a seaman. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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This brief book contains a variety of García Lorca's writings relating to duende. Among those materials are two lectures he gave and about twenty poems that, according to the editor Christopher Maurer, "arise from traditional Spanish verse forms". The poems are presented in both Spanish and in English translation, which translations are by distinguished poets in their own right, including M.S. Merwin, Langston Hughes, and Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili. In general, however, the poems do not speak to me - as was the case in my previous encounters with García Lorca's poetry.
Of more interest to me were the two lectures. (As an aside, based on the evidence of these two examples, García Lorca was a superb, inspired lecturer.) The first concerns Andalusian "deep song" and, building on the writings of Manuel de Falla, argues that it was heavily influenced by the songs and music of Gypsies originally from India. A footnote states that the theories García Lorca advances in this lecture are now questioned by scholars. Still, the lecture is helpful in outlining what García Lorca was trying to capture with the notion of duende. More helpful is the second lecture, "Play and Theory of the Duende". But even there, duende is an elusive concept. For Americans of my generation, the closest term probably is "soul". To expand on that, I sense that duende is performance (or art) that is on the edge, is unique (in the sense that it cannot be replicated), does not adhere strictly to the conventions of the particular art form, is unabashedly expressed, and is driven more by death than by love.
IN SEARCH OF DUENDE can be recommended for admirers of García Lorca who wish to gain a deeper understanding of his poetics.
Duende is like soul. James Brown's music has duende, for example. So does the music of Mozart and Emmylou Harris, as well as the writing of Khaled Hosseini and the art of Picasso. Today, as in Lorca's time, much popular culture does not have it. As a poet, Lorca was uniquely situated to understand and describe duende. Using his own poems, as well as verses from the folk music he fought to keep alive, Lorca passionately implores his audience to appreciate the importance of duende.
Grasping the meaning of duende is far from a dry academic exercise. Lorca's lectures and essays provide a framework for appreciating and perhaps even making great art.
Highly recommended for anyone aspiring to create.