Anonymous "Lazarillo de Tormes" (Spanish: La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades) - 1554
I found the title of this book in Jane Smiley's "13 Ways of Looking at the Novel" and thought it would be interesting to read.
And so it was. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book that was written almost 500 years ago, a great classic that you can read quite quickly because it is so short but there is a lot of action going on. This young, poor boy called Lazarillo, has to fend for himself, he has several masters and tells us his stories with them in this novel/novella.
I wouldn't exactly compare it to Cervantes' "Don Quixote" even though both books are only written about a hundred years apart and come from about the same area but there are some similarities. I loved the humour in this book, the humour you often find in those people who are less fortunate than others, who have to work hard for their living, who have no hope that it will ever get better. This is one such person and his humour does not leave him, no matter how hard the times.
The author managed to draw a very realistic sounding view of life in the 16th century, he was witty and intelligent, as is his protagonist Lazarillo. I just assume the author was a "he" because at the time, few women would write and they would probably have had totally different experiences,
A lovely book that introduces us to a genre that is called picaresque, novels that describe adventures of young boys of a lower social class. Some other books that belong to this genre, most of them are well known from television if people have not read the novels:
Berger, Thomas "Little Big Man"
Böll, Heinrich "The Clown"
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote"
Defoe, Daniel "Moll Flanders"
Eco, Umberto "Baudolino"
Fielding, Henry "Tom Jones"
Grass, Günter "The Tin Drum"
Grimmelshausen, Hans Jakob Christoffel von "Simplicius Simplicissimus"
Guareschi, Giovanni "Don Camillo and Peppone"
Hašek, Jaroslov "The Good Soldier Švejk"
Ilf, Ilja; Petrow, Jewgeni "Twelve Chairs"
Jonasson, Jonas "The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared"
Mann, Thomas "Confessions of Felix Krull"
I think I need to put them all on my wishlist.
What a shame the author is unknown and there are not more novels by him.
From the back cover:
"Long considered by many scholars to be the first picaresque novel (or the precursor of all such novels), Lazarillo de Tormes made its initial appeared in Spain in the middle of the 16th century, on the heels of an era of novels of chivalry and romance. Despite the Inquisition's disapproval, this brief, simply told tale of a young rogue's adventures and misadventures became popular immediately and defied attempts to suppress it. Ever since, it has been recognized as one of the gems of Spanish literature, full of laconic cynicism and spiced with puns and word play."