I.B Tauris £19.95 (248pp) £17.95 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Lorca, Buñuel, Dalí: Forbidden Pleasure and Connected Lives, By Gwynne Edwards

This is the story of three young friends in Spain who went on to become major artists, each forging international reputations; as doomed poet and gay icon, provocative and influential film-maker, and wealth-obsessed, self-proclaimed "genius" painter. It is also a story of betrayal and revenge, supporting the adage that two is company, three's a crowd.

First, Lorca and Dalí became close friends (and probably lovers), then Dalí teamed up with Buñuel, while Lorca was in America, and made a film in which the male lead might well have been a loose parody of Lorca. As Lorca commented, "Buñuel has made a little film... it's called Un chien andalou and I'm the dog."

From 1929, the three had very little to do with each other, and barely even met. Buñuel showed only contempt for Dalí's embracing of fascism and ultimate return to Catholicism. Dalí, on hearing of Lorca's murder in 1936, allegedly shouted a celebratory "Olé!".

Dalí is undoubtedly the villain of the book, as well as the one with whom the author is least at home. Although Gwynne Edwards, an accomplished translator of the plays, is far more comfortable in Lorca territory, he has little to say about the poetry, touching only briefly on Gypsy Ballads and Poet in New York, and less about Dalí 's art world in Paris. There are descriptions of the famous paintings, but no illustrations. Much of the writing on Buñuel is distilled from the film-maker's memoir, My Last Breath, and the anecdotal summary of Dalí's miserable decline, his toxic lifestyle and the sordid, acrimonious breakdown of his marriage can be savoured in far greater detail in Ian Gibson's Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí.

There are too many examples of vagueness and inaccuracy in the book, mostly indicative of poor editing. Figueres, Dalí's home town – for which Edwards insists on using the obsolete, Castilian spelling – is a "coastal town" on page 1 but by page 17 has correctly moved "some 25 kilometres inland". Franco disliked the left "for personal reasons" – but we never learn what those reasons were. An unfinished Lorca play apparently conveyed the message that "the real purpose of theatre should be to make people feel that people are 'in the middle of the street'". And there are baffling non-sequiturs.

Far more irritating is the cod-psychological analysis meted out to all three men, often touching depths of banality: "Dalí's psychological make-up was in many respects very different from Buñuel's, but both possessed a strongly rebellious streak"; "it is quite possible that beneath Buñuel's tough exterior there was a gentler side that responded to Lorca's reading of poetry".

We learn that Buñuel was a bullying husband through his long married life; that Dalí as an adolescent was "constantly preoccupied by the small size of his penis" and Lorca, whose life was tragically curtailed in 1936, probably seduced Dalí when they were students and Dalí (who may well have responded but was terrified – and obsessed – by the act of sodomy) spent the rest of his life trying to prove he was not gay. Only Lorca comes out of this study with integrity intact.

For anyone familiar with the lives of the three, none of this is new. The writing is not informed by new research and the photographs are familiar. Edwards attempts to draw out the parallels between the artists, pointing to similarities of experience and disposition, but in most cases these threads would be common to any sensitive child growing up in a privileged, middle-class family in early 20th-century Spain, and educated by priests who thought that sexual pleasure was the work of the devil.

This is not to say that Lorca, Buñuel, Dali is a bad book; Edwards tells the story concisely, condensing the early lives into manageable chunks. It provides an introduction to an extraordinary period of Spanish history through three exceptional individuals. But much of this territory has been covered elsewhere, and it is the framing of his argument that marks out Edwards's study, rather than its content.

Richard Gwyn's novel 'Deep Hanging Out' is published by Snowbooks

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all