Obituary: Luis Rosales

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The Independent Online
Luis Rosales Camacho, poet, critic and academic, born Granada 31 May 1910, died Madrid 24 October 1992.

Luis Rosales, the poet and critic and one of Spain's most celebrated literary figures, was one of the last links with the group of writers and artists known as 'the generation of '36'. Rosales, along with Dionisio Ridruejo, Leopoldo Panero and Luis Felipe Vivanco, was the link between the republican poetic generation and those who began to make themselves known after the Civil War.

Like Garcia Lorca, he was an Andalusian, born in Granada, and with Lorca took part in the foundation of various literary reviews and poetry magazines. He graduated in philosophy and literature from the University of Granada. In 1932 he moved to Madrid, where he obtained his degree of Doctor of Philology and began a literary career, publishing poems in the review Cuatro vientos and collaborating on others like Cruz y Raya, Vertice and El gallo. His first book, Abril, was published in 1935.

The poets of the '36 generation are not as well known as those of the preceding and following generations, for their activity was obscured by the tragic events of the Civil War. There was also a split caused by political, ideological and literary differences. During the Civil War, Rosales fought on Franco's side, for he came of a family of Falangists, but he continued writing poetry and essays. His early friendship with Lorca, who was murdered by the Nationalists, cast a shadow over his life, for he was accused of having allowed his friend to be shot. The poet Luis Cernuda, in his great 1937 elegy on Lorca's death, alluded to Rosales as one of those responsible for the poet's murder. However, in later years there were many voices raised in Rosales' defence. The critic Jose Maria Balcells recently revealed that Rosales' poem 'Cancio de los muertos' ('Song of the Dead'), inspired by Lorca's death, was published during the Civil War in the literary review Jerarquia (1937).

The best account of the relationship between Lorca and Rosales is to be found in Ian Gibson's masterly biography of Lorca, and also in his delightful Guia a la Granada de Federico Garcia Lorca (1989). Gibson takes us step by step through the last days and hours of Lorca's life. We learn that after reaching his family home at la Huerta on 6 August 1936, a Falangist squadron arrived to make inquiries and Lorca was abused. Aware that he was in a dangerous situation, he called on Luis Rosales and his three brothers, all Falangists, to help him. The Rosales family discussed what could be done to help. There were three possibilities. They could help Lorca escape to the republican zone, an easy matter for Falangists; they could hide Lorca in the house of the composer Manuel de Falla, who was a Catholic and because of his international musical fame beyond attack; or they could shelter the poet in the family house. This last option was the one they chose, and on 9 August Lorca left la Huerta by taxi and took refuge with them.

Lorca was aware of the shootings of dissidents going on the region of Granada. He was arrested at the Rosales' house on 16 August, and was shot on the 18th or 19th. Rosales never recovered from the tragedy of Lorca's death and the sorrow of his own involvement in it. But the Spaniards, like the Japanese, are a forgiving people, as can be seen in their reverence for another literary figure, the Nobel Prize winner Camilo Jose Cela, who was also caught up on the Franco side of the conflict. Rosales went on to make a name for himself in poetry by the publication of works like La casa encendida ('The House in Flames', 1949) perhaps his best collection of poetry, followed by Rimas ('Rhymes', 1951) and Canciones ('Songs', 1951). His collected poems were published in 1981. Rosales is also known as a fine literary critic and scholar, writing Cervantes y la libertad ('Cervantes and Liberty', 1960) and Antonio Machado (1963). He wrote on baroque poets and on the Spanish poetic genius, on La poesia de Neruda (1978), a symbolic gesture towards the new freedom in Spanish intellectual and literary life, as well as on the great Portuguese poet Camoens. He was a great lover of his native flamenco and wrote a Diccionario enciclopedico ilustrado del cante flamenco - a fundamental work of reference for all admirers of this musical tradition.

Rosales went on writing and working as an academic almost to the end of his life. His last published poetic works were Un rostro en cada ola ('A Face in Every Wave', 1982), Oigo el silencio universal del miedo ('I Hear the Universal Silence of Fear', 1986) and Nueva York despues de muerto ('New York after the Death', 1988), which is dedicated to the memory of Lorca.

During the Franco regime, he made frequent visits to Latin America to give readings and lectures, and he was rewarded with many honours. He won the Nacional de Literatura prize in 1951, and obtained the highest degree of recognition with the Miguel de Cervantes de Literatura award in 1982. He was a member since 1962 of the Real Academia Espanola and of the Hispanic Society of America.

The extent to which he was forgiven and loved and respected by his literary colleagues and by the Spanish people in general could be seen by the many full-page tributes to him in Saturday's Spanish press, and from the heartfelt expressions of sorrow from his many friends and admirers including Gonzalo Torrente Ballester and Manuel Alvar.