Siglo de Oro

The thing about lists is…once you’re started it can be difficult to stop! I am currently buried in a figurative pile of assorted lists, and I confess, I’m probably going to be posting these based on how much effort (or not) it takes to complete them. So it is for my third entry: Siglo de Oro. Like the Italian books, I knew very little going into this list as to what should be on it, so I thought it would take some real effort and research to create it. Or maybe, surprisingly, not so much…

Although I’m sure we covered the topic in Spanish class my senior year of high school, all I could have said on the Siglo de Oro about 6 months ago would have been that I was pretty sure it translated literally to “Centruy of Gold.” However, a series of blog posts by Richard on El Buscón helped refresh my memory. For those who don’t know (for me when I forget in a year or two…), the Siglo de Oro was a period of the flourishing of the Spanish Empire and Spanish culture–music, art, and of course, literature–during roughly the 16th and 17th centuries. The most famous literary work of the period is almost certainly Don Quixote, considered by some, although this is disputed, as the first Western Novel.

Here I must make a confession. Don Quixote was required summer reading before my sophomore year of Spanish, but I only read a bit more than half. A consummate procrastinator during high school, I ran out of summer. Whoops. Admittedly, it is lengthy, but from what I remember, not that difficult and most definitely humorous.

Now, at this point, I should probably be stumped on what else to add to the list. I could (and did) refer to my trusty 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. The Wikipedia entry on the Spanish Golden Age was a bit low on recommendations, so not to much help there. Of course, there are other list sources around–but I had a bit of a cheat on this one: when I was still studying Spanish, one of my aunts–who in a previous career taught high school Spanish–gave to me the entirety of her remaining college Spanish texts. Gold mine! Among the volumes were such titles as Diez Comedias del Siglo de Oro and Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain. With these as a starting point, it didn’t take too much work to develop a Siglo de Oro list.

Some points to mention: First, because 1001 Books listed some medieval Spanish literature that sounds interesting (and hopefully entertaining), I’ve added these as well, so the limits aren’t strictly defined here. Second, with this list, I’m deviating from my typical novels. From what I can determine, much of the top Spanish literature of the era was plays and poetry. Since I already have ready access to some of these, I’ve decided to include them, although the poetry will definitely pose a challenge for me: I almost never read any. Finally, as much of what I have is in Spanish (in textbook form, so well foot-noted), I will hopefully be reading a least a portion of the list in Spanish. This list is my first really challenging one!

  1. Anonymous: The Poem of the Cid [El Cantar del Mio Cid] (12th century)*
  2. Martorell, Joanot: Tirant the White [Tirant lo Blanc] (1490)*
  3. Rojas, Fernando de: La Celestina (1499)*
  4. Montalvo, Garci Rodríguez de: Amadis of Gaul [Amadis de Gaula] (1508)*
  5. Anonymous: The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (1554)
  6. Ercilla, Alonso de: The Araucaniad [La Araucana] (1569-89)
  7. Alemán, Mateo: Guzmán de Alfarache (1599-1604)
  8. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: Don Quixote (1605, 1615)
  9. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: El Licenciado Vidriera (1613)†
  10. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: El Casamiento Enganoso (1613)†
  11. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: El Coloquio de los Perros (1613)†
  12. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: The Travels of Persiles and Sigismunda (1617)
  13. Lope de Vega: Fuenteovejuna (1619)‡
  14. Quevedo y Villegas, Francisco Gómez: The Swindler [Historia de la Vida del Buscón] (1626)
  15. Molina, Tirso de:  El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra [The Rouge of Seville] (c. 1630)‡
  16. Díaz del Castillo, Bernal: The Conquest of New Spain [Verdadera historia de la conquista de Nueva España] (1632)
  17. Calderón de la Barca, Pedro: La Vida es Sueño (c. 1629-35)‡
  18. Calderón de la Barca, Pedro:El Alcalde de Zalamea [The Mayor of Zalamea] (1651)
  19. Anonymous: Estebanillo González (1646)
  20. Gracián y Morales, Baltasar: Criticón(1651-57)
  21. Rivers, Elias L., editor: Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain (1966 ed.)

I admit, I’m a little intimidated by the thought of reading so much Spanish after having been away from it for so long. I have an abbreviated Don Quixote in Spanish, as well as a complete English translation, so I may start there and ease my way into remembering words long forgotten. This will definitely be a long-term project, regardless!

* I believe all of these works are considered Medieval rather than Siglo de Oro.
† I have all of these in a single volume titled Three Exemplary Novels
‡ Included in Diez Comedias del Siglo de Oro

8 thoughts on “Siglo de Oro”

    1. Just a little bit! Fortunately, I’m not going to be reading all of these in a row. And I’m sure I’ll read some of them in English. (Don Quixote, most likely, as I already have a copy.)

  1. Great list, Amanda–I’ve read about half and would like to read the other half someday. The Cantar de Mio Cid was super difficult the first time I read it in Spanish (I had a critical edition that had more footnotes and definitions than actual text), but it’s SO much richer in Spanish than in any English translation I’ve ever seen. Lazarillo de Tormes may be one of the best options for you to break down your intimidation: not only is it very entertaining but the level of Spanish isn’t all that difficult at all. Any, best of luck with your project!

    1. Thank you for the information, Richard. I don’t (yet) own either Cantar de Mio Cid or Lazarillo de Tormes, so my initial inclination would have been to read those in English, but if the Spanish is so much better, I may have to reconsider. Especially if there’s a critical edition. Thanks!

  2. “Amadis of Gaul” is a medieval novel that became the first European-wide bestseller in the Renaissance. I’m translating it online into English, in case you’re interested.

  3. Well, I’m glad you explained that whole Century of Gold thing to me; who knew? I still have yet to read Don Quixote, I see that Claire is working through it, and I’d hoped to read the Grossman translation myself last year when there was a readalong. Sadly, I missed it. Sadly, I know next to nothing about this genre. Thanks for sharing your lists and thoughts with me!

    1. Oh, there are so many things in literature I don’t know–I’m somewhat fuzzy on a lot of the definitions of the different eras of literature. Siglo de Oro just happened to be one that I could easily learn more about, thanks to all the books I have. I may have to read through some more of the ‘about’ information before I really dig into these books/plays/poetry, but hopefully that will be part of the fun! And maybe we’ll both get to Don Quixote soon!

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