LETTER TO HIS FATHER, April 10, 1920
by Federico Garcia Lorca
I’ve just gotten your letter, with its wise, serious tone, and I’ll answer you in exactly the same way. I’m much more anxious to see all of you than you are to see me—after all, you’re all together there, and here I am alone. . . But when it is a matter of circumstance and of one’s vocation, one has no choice but to submit. What I can’t stand is this business of whether I stay here or go home. It does me great harm, and at a moment like this what I really have to do is settle down and work hard and show a little cleverness, for what goes on now is crucial to my well-being. I know perfectly well what you think (alas!). But I am telling you and solemnly promising you—because I love you so—that when a man strikes out on his path neither wolves nor dogs should make him turn back. And I—fortunately for me— have a lance like Don Quixote’s. I am on my path, Papa. Don’t make me look back!
I know you all love me very much, but you’re only paying me in the same coin, because I love you all even more. I also know that you would like to have me there by your side, but this is something imposed by circumstance. What would I do in Granada? Be the butt of a lot of nonsense, a lot of arguing, a lot of envy and slander (this only happens, naturally, to men with talent)? Not that it matters to me—thank God, I’m above all that—but it would be very, very bothersome. One doesn’t argue with a fool, and just now, in Madrid, I’m being argued about, or rather talked about, by truly respectable people, despite the fact that I’ve just set out, and I’m going to really be a hit when I put on other things in the theater and I’ll probably end up with a great name as an author. Sudden, complete triumph harms the artist. Anyway, I’m preparing my things and going very slowly, very deliberately, so I can give birth to a sensational book. Up here I write, work, read and study. The environment is marvelous. I hardly go out at all. People (a few) come to visit me. I only go out to visit [Gregorio] Martínez Sierra and the staff of Espa–a, with a group of young, strong intellectuals. But the main reason I can’t leave isn’t my books (which is a very important one) but because I am in a student residence—it’s not as though it were a boarding house! It’s extremely difficult to get into this place and if I happened to have done so easily, without formally applying, because of my merit and the affection and friendship of others, with the director using his influence and getting me in while excluding another ten students who had applied, it would be unforgivable to simply get up in the middle of the academic year and announce that I’m leaving, and just say “thanks” and “goodbye.” The fact that I hesitated before, and didn’t come (you know the whole story) will make them say I’m a fickle person, and I’ll end up looking unworthy and ridiculous.
For this reason, more than any other, I implore you to let me stay. I am a man of my word, my dear father! Have I ever behaved badly to you? Haven’t I always obeyed? Here I behave the way one is supposed to, better than at home, because I have to adopt a serious attitude. Your letter telling me to go home because if I don’t you’ll come and get me, really bothered me. That attitude of yours would be perfect for a father whose son does some unspeakable deed, and the father comes to collect him to give him a good lashing or leave him high and dry. I can’t believe you really feel that way. You tell me “Come home for two months, and you can go back later.” When, dear father? When? In August? Why don’t you come up here? I would love to see you and the rest of the family. Come, and if you insist on my going home with you I will, but I can assure you that it won’t be long before you regret it. I will obey you—that’s my duty, or I think it’s my duty, but you will have dealt me a death-blow, the whole thing will fill me with disgust and discouragement and I’ll lose the enthusiasm I feel—an enthusiasm I have to protect. I beg you with all my heart to leave me here until the end of the year, and then I’ll go home with all my books published and the calm knowledge of having broken a lance fighting against the Philistines in order to defend and protect pure Art, true Art. You know, there’s no way you can change me. I was born a poet and an artist the way someone is born lame or blind or handsome. Leave me my wings, and I promise I will fly. So please, Papá, don’t insist on my going—even the idea fills me with anguish. I think I have stated my reasons. Are they reasons or not? If the real problem is that I am spending too much money, just tell me—I’ll respond like a man. After all, it’s easy to earn money when one has a good head. One must look at life and the world with clear, optimistic eyes and I, father, am an optimist and feel happy. Answer me the way I’ve answered you. And lastly, I beg you with my whole heart to read my letter well, and think it over. You should also realize that I am not some object who belongs to you and of whom you are very fond—I have my own life and my own resolve, and this business of coming and going harms me and is not serious. One has to be daring and brave. Mediocrity, the golden mean—those things are always fatal. Don’t consult about these things with your lawyer and doctor and veterinary friends, etc.—little, mediocre, nasty people—but rather with Mama and the children. I think I’m right.
You know I love you with all my heart.
Translated from the Spanish by Christopher Maurer
This letter previously appeared in jubilat 7.