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The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes by Anonymous

The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (1554)

by Anonymous [Spanish literature]

Other authors: Olaug Berdal (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,014258,402 (3.52)58
  1. 10
    The Golden Ass by Apuleius (caflores)
  2. 10
    El Buscón by Francisco de Quevedo (Sergio88, caflores)
    Sergio88: Tercera gran novela picaresca de la literatura española. Esta vez nos encontramos con la visión irónica del pícaro Don Pablos.
  3. 10
    Guzmán de Alfarache, Part 1/2 by Mateo Alemán (Sergio88)
    Sergio88: La segunda gran novela picaresca de la literatura española (1599 Primera Parte, 1604 Segunda Parte). A diferencia del Lazarillo, el Guzmán se desprende de gran parte de la crítica erasmista para convertirse en casi un manual doctrinario de la Contrarreforma.… (more)

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English (11)  Spanish (10)  French (3)  Dutch (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
I found this classic work of Spanish literature mildly entertaining, definitely satiric, and undoubtedly much more shocking when it was written (hence, the anonymous authorship) than it is today. Narrated by Lazaro himself, it tells the tale of his work as a servant for various, mostly harsh and, indeed, abusive, masters, starting with a blind man when he was but a boy, and progressing through working for a penniless squire who nonetheless acts as if he has money but doesn't deign to work, various, largely corrupt, representatives of the church, and a constable, eventually achieving a position of his own in government. This allows the anonymous author much opportunity for satire, as well as the opportunity to show the hardships prevalent in 16th century Spain. I found the chapter in which Lazaro works for a seller of indulgences especially funny, but overall I didn't enjoy this book as much as the introduction by Juan Goytisolo led me to believe I would. As an added note, this is said to be the first picaresque novel.
1 vote rebeccanyc | Apr 5, 2015 |
Een van de eerste echte romans, bij momenten best boeiend, maar de thematiek is eerder voorbijgestreefd. ( )
  WorldInColour | Oct 12, 2013 |
It was a really short reading. The author, anonymus, was really able to let me visualize Lázaro's life and sufferings. Also the footnotes of this edition really helped me to grasp the deeper meaning many of the passages have. ( )
  Kirmuriel | Sep 19, 2013 |
The past few months have been craptastacular in the life department, a yo-yo of highs and lows that sort of swung out of control and clocked me in the head at concussive force. Duck? Too late. Then at the beginning of the holiday vacation week, I started to get sick and sicker. I watched Forrest Gump through sneezing and mucous and ended up bawling out even more mucous. I tried to watch the Matrix movies but those made me cry, too! Every scene where two people met eyes meaningfully would set me off. And let me tell you, there were so many of those scenes in those movies, it could probably be a drinking game.

In my weakened and pitiful state, I read this very short novella. It did not lead to crying.

At my advanced age, the brain has gotten pretty inflexible. Learning takes noticeable effort. But thanks to exposure to a very wide range of books on gr and the analytical brilliance & knowledgable depth of fellow readers, I think I may be developing an appreciation for books beyond the immediate payoff. Maybe. Because this reads like a story I wrote in middle school, one that I had a lot of fun writing and I remember imagining how my teacher would read it and be stunned by how amazing I write. Hah. I cringe to recall that. A little clumsy, a little stilted, the humor a little slapstick-y, the main character a little bit of a dunce. Unlike my attempt, however, this book reaches across cultures and hundreds of years and manages to expose the hypocrisies of quite a few classes and still be humorous. I can appreciate how this blazed new ground where my middle school efforts did not. This is a breakthrough! I can relate to this but there is recognition that there are different measuring sticks. I pat myself on the back.

If you are reduced to shedding tears at Matrix, snap out of it and give this book a try. It may be able to tickle you back to normal. ( )
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
Having read enough Golden Age plays for now (although there's a few more by Calderón I'm in the process of obtaining), I decided to jump genres and read a couple of the classic picaresque novels. First up is Lazarillo de Tormes, published anonymously in 1554. Its innovations are a bit harder to fully comprehend nearly half a millennium after it was written, but when you start to think about the book in terms of Spain's earlier literary output, it's strikingly (shockingly) revolutionary. For instance, Wikipedia says it's the first Spanish novel in which a person changes and grows, transcending the fixed, archetypal nature of medieval characters. This sounds like it couldn't possibly be true, but then I started to think about it: El Cid remains the same heroic, patient guy throughout his poem, Calixto and Melibea's flaws are pretty much constant throughout La Celestina, and a lot of other books were written in genres that didn't really allow for character development. Maybe people grow in Juan Ruiz's Libro de buen amor? As I recall, he learns some lessons about procuring ladies in that book, and it also seems to be the book most closely related to Lazarillo in terms of its pseudo-autobiographic nature and its use of ambiguity in the communication of moral (or not so moral) messages. Or maybe it's true, maybe this is the first character in Spain who really changes from a book's beginning to its end.

Another thing that doesn't stand out in the 21st century is the use of the first person in a novel. But at the time, a little ruffian writing his own rags-to-(relative)-riches story was quite original. The author justifies this surprising act of autobiography by framing Lázaro's life story around a conspicuous situation: after a rough adolescence, the narrator has ascended to the lofty post of town crier in Toledo. He's fallen under the protection of a certain Archpriest, who's also supplied him with a wife. The problem is, the wife is always going over to the Archpriest's home to do chores and stuff, and people are whispering that she does more than chores on her visits. Lázaro has effectively forbade his friends from mentioning the situation, content to maintain a hear-no-evil stance on the whole thing. However, a nobleman who knows both Lázaro and the Archpriest, and is referred to as "Vuestra Merced" (Your Grace), has written him and asked Lázaro to tell his story in as much detail as is necessary. This is why we get to read the life and times of Lázaro (although we never do find out how and when he learned how to read and write).

After being born to a miller (who was arrested for stealing grain and later sent to die in battle) and a washerwoman (who later found work in an inn and also turned tricks down at the stable to make ends meet), Lazarillo is set out on his own when he's old enough to fend for himself. He becomes a blind man's servant, and is the victim of a number of mean-spirited tricks. For instance, the blind man tells him to put his ear up to a statue of a bull, then smacks his head forcibly into the statue. After that initial blow, Lazarillo is awakened to the fact that he's on his own and realizes that he's got to defend himself. He starts returning the favor, guiding the blind man through the most difficult paths and stealing wine from his jug with a long straw. They also once share a bunch of grapes: the blind man tells Lazarillo to eat them one by one, but then he starts eating them two by two, so Lazarillo starts going three by three. When they're done, the blind man says he knew what was going on the whole time because he'd been eating two at a time and Lazarillo never said a word. Eventually, though, their relationship is strained by one too many tricks and Lazarillo is asked to find a new master. He moves on to a clergyman who turns out to be a serious miser, and then to a squire who's not as wealthy as he seems. His time with the squire, during which master and servant share in hunger and abject poverty, is one of the most famous and enduring parts of the book. Lazarillo comes to see the lengths that people go to in order to keep up their appearances and not let everyone else know about their struggles, and he comes to admire the squire even though he's an absolutely terrible boss. There's one strikingly short episode in which Lazarillo takes up with another man of the church. It's not more than half a page, and he closes with a statement about how he left that man's service due to some other little things he's not going to mention. Some have seen his silence to represent abuse, or sexual transgressions on the part of his master. Others have affirmed that this isn't necessarily so. Any such conclusion is more speculation than anything, but to me it seems like a reasonable explanation for his extreme reticence to go into detail about that portion of his life. The relatively negative portrayal of the church is a constant throughout, and this book was banned for heresy during the Spanish Inquisition.

Eventually young Lazarillo finds some steadier employment and grows up to be Lázaro, the crier with the wife who may or may not be doing things with the Archpriest. He believes that he's successfully improved his lot in life and risen in social standing, and it's hard to argue with him: he's no longer hungry and he's got a great more stability in his life than he did before. However, he's still living a less-than-honorable existence with his wife running back and forth between their home and the neighbor's house, and it's hard to say how readers back in the 16th century would have interpreted his life story. Maybe they would have been harder on him, since he spent his life playing tricks on his masters and now he's content to ignore a situation that dishonors him.

It's fun and short, full of slapstick action. It's the type of book you can easily read in a single sitting, and it's also well worth reading due to its fame as the founding work of the picaresque genre. There are a handful of famous picaresque works from early modern Spain (Quevedo's El buscón and Mateo Alemán's Guzmán de Alfarache being two of the most notable), and they play on a lot of the events and conventions established in this book. The picaresque genre also plays a significant role in Don Quixote, where the criminal Ginés de Pasamonte claims to be writing his own life story. From the Renaissance onward, it's a genre that's had a great deal of success throughout the western world. I know Lazarillo was widely translated, and I wonder how much it influenced other renowned picaresque works I am not familiar with. Dickens, for example: how much of Lazarillo's influence can be found in his books? I also learned something new as I was reading and kept finding references in the footnotes to a book called The Golden Ass. Apparently the only surviving Latin novel is also an example of the picaresque. It was translated by Machiavelli in 1517, and its use of the first person, as well as its episodic story of a young man with many masters, are repeated in Lazarillo. It seems that people have always enjoyed reading about little tricksters striving to get ahead in life. ( )
2 vote msjohns615 | Feb 20, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (217 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anonymous [Spanish literature]primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berdal, OlaugEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Castelli, HoraceIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cejador y Frauca, JulioEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dam, C.F.A. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foulché-Delbosc, R.Restitutionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Greco, GilbertoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merwin, W.S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oosten, Jan vanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rico, FranciscoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robert, AdrienEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rossi, RosaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vazquez Montalban, ManuelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Pues sepa Vuestra Merced, ante todas cosas, que a mí llaman Lázaro de Tormes, hijo de Tomé González y de Antona Pérez, naturales de Tejares, aldea de Salamanca.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486414310, Paperback)

The first picaresque novel, and one of the gems of Spanish literature. A brief, simply told tale of a rogue's adventures and misadventures — full of laconic cynicism and spiced with puns and wordplay. Introduction, Notes, and new English translation by Stanley Appelbaum.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Durante los ltimos aos del emperador Carlos I, el Lazarillo es un pcaro. Lejos de amargarse por la triste circunstancia que le toca vivir, observa la realidad con agudo espritu crtico y sentido de humor. Este libro de texto y su disco compacto son diseados para el desarrollo de las cuatro destrezas: leer, escribir, escuchar y hablar.Provides instruction in Spanish by using texts from literature as a textbook, with the story recorded in a Castilian Spanish accent on the accompanying disc. Each chapter has activities especially designed to develop the four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. Also included is information about the history, geography, art, science, etc. of the time and place in which the work is set.… (more)

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