Review: The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Posted 25 July, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes
By: Anonymous
Format/Source: eBook

Spain has produced two books that changed world literature: Don Quixote and Lazarillo de Tormes, the first picaresque novel ever written and the inspired precursor to works as various as Vanity Fair and Huckleberry Finn. Banned by the Spanish Inquisition after publication in 1554, Lazarillo was soon translated throughout Europe, where it was widely copied. The book is a favorite to this day for its vigorous colloquial style and the earthy realism with which it exposes human hypocrisy.

The bastard son of a prostitute, Lazarillo goes to work for a blind beggar, who beats and starves him, while teaching him some very useful dirty tricks. The boy then drifts in and out of the service of a succession of masters, each vividly sketched and together revealing the corrupt world of imperial Spain. Its miseries are made all the more apparent by the candor and surprising good cheer with which young Lazarillo recounts his ever more curious fate.

The author of Lazarillo de Tormes is unknown.

I added this book to my wishlist sometime last year after going through the selection of titles published by the New York Review Books but it came to my attention earlier this year when another blogger read it for a reading challenge I am currently hosting. I decided to search for a copy on Gutenberg and it was only recently that I got around to reading it 🙂

This book is part of the Everything Espana Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.

I’m not sure how much I can say about this book to fill an entry. I thought the story was quite accessible; it wasn’t boring or dry and I think the story kept me quite intriged as to how Lazarillo’s life would turn out. Suffice to say, Lazarillo had a pretty crappy life; masters who starved him, people who treated him poorly (to put it lightly), people cheating him and robbing him. You can’t trust anyone in Lazarillo’s world and society, and when he does come across someone who seems decent, it’s hard to tell because he’s already been burned so many times. I really felt bad for him.

The book also provided an intersting look at life in medieval Spain. I can see why this book caught the ire of the Spanish Inquisition given its scathing look at the clergy and the rich, its frank glimpse of the immense poverty in society (seriously, if there’s one thing that hit home with me reading this book, it’s how food and hunger were always on Lazarillo’s mind), the everyday realities that everyone faces and conducts themselves in. It was quite fascinating, and an eye-opener. And yes, Lazarillo gets into some really crazy situations throughout the novel.

So yes, overall I thought The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes was an interesting read. I highly recommend it if you’re into classics such as The Canterbury Tales or books set in Spain (plus, it’s a fairly short read!).

Rating: ★★★★☆

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