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JUAN BOSCAN ALMOGAVER. The eternal themes of Renaissance

Spain has produced a lot of “kings of poets”, and one of the most famous is Juan Boscan Almogaver. The first line of one of his most famous poems typifies all his works: “I am still alive, though already I could not stand to live”. His poems were published after his death. This fact is one of the reasons why the tragedy of existence goes through all the poems of the poet. Why do we know so little about “the hero” of Spanish literature?

Nobleman, soldier and reformer

Juan Boscan Almogaver was born at the end of the XV century in Barcelona. Noble origin does not guarantee a happy childhood: as a boy he lost his father before he was five years of age. After receiving a quality education and awards, respected by society, Juan served at the court of the Catholic kings, and later at the court of Emperor Carlos I. A few years later he was assigned to mentor the Duke of Alba. He was working as a tutor until his death. In the court, Juan established friendly relations with Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, conductor of Italian influence in the XVI century. Later their messages to each other later became outstanding poetic monuments.Boscan came from an old noble family and was not spared his military service: he fought the Turks on the island of Rhodes, and after a couple of years was transferred to in Vienna. During this period, Juan established friendly relations with the Spanish ambassador to Italy, Garcilaso de la Vega, whose work ensured the victory of the new “Italian school”. Despite the “affairs of state”, Juan Boscan has made a major contribution to the poetry of Spanish Renaissance – also, he is one of the founders of the “Italian school”.

Spanish lyrics: the reform

Since the beginning of his “literary life”, the inspirational poet for Boscan was a Catalan man, Auziasa Mark. Juan and his friends Diego Hurtado de Mendoza and Garcilaso de la Vega saw themselves as disciples of Mark. Auziasa Mark was able to break away from the rhetorical tradition of Provencal troubadours by making intimate lyrical poems about love, faith and death. When Boskan served at the imperial court, he appealed to the Italian lyric tradition and Petrarch. “Italian school” won in Spanish poetry thanks to him and his famous teammates. He enriched the poetry of his country be decasyllabic, hendecasyllabic verse, developed forms of the sonnet, terza rima, etc. The manifesto of “Italian school”, published as the Epistle to the Duchess de Soma, became the symbol of the Spanish Renaissance. Boscan also developed the theme of poetic development of the ancient stories in the poem “Hero and Leander”. Cristobal de Castillejo was an “adversary” of cosmopolitanism of Boscan, who stick to the traditionalist school and popular forms of song lyrics. Juan Boscan also translated a book of dialogues of Baldassare Castiglione “The Book of the Courtier”, prepared volume of the works of Garcilaso.De la Vega’s and Boscan’s poems were published after his death by his widow Ana Girón de Rebolledo around 1543.


INSET: Noble origin does not guarantee a happy childhood: as a boy he lost his father before he was five years of age.


“A good book is an event in my life”, is a famous quote from 19th-century French writer Stendhal. Spanish books are heroic and sublime, frank and fierce. Today, writers have become the mouthpiece of the Spanish era.  According to the great scientist of the Northern Renaissance, Erasmus of Rotterdam, even in the 16th century “science and scholarship in Spain attained marvellous prosperity. It was used as a model for all European scientists”. Spanish was the language of international communication under Charles V. Literary Spanish hit a genuinely high level.
Spanish literature through the ages
The oldest known work of Spanish literature, the epic poem “The Song of My Lord” was written about a real man, about his battles and his daily life. It is thought that the anonymous poem was written, in the year 1140. This epic represents realism, nothing was exaggerated and the detail is clear. Thus, it can be said that patriotism was a typical theme for Spanish literature from the 13th century or earlier still in the 12th century. All of the early period is characterized by elevated feeling, “knight’s brave heart” and the people’s spirit.
The heroic epic talks more eloquently and authentically about the history of the country than any historical document. The Golden Age of Spanish culture spans the entire 16th and half of the 17th century.
The Spain of this period is the birthplace of the leading prose genre of modern European literature – the novel. The genre of the novel derives from “Don Quixote” by Cervantes. Juan Boskan led an Italian trend in Spanish poetry. Dramatic poetry reaches a high level in the 16th century.  During the Baroque period of the 17th century, the most important topics were the prose of Francisco de Quevedo and Baltasar Gracian. Enlightened thinkers of the 18th century sought to apply systematic thinking to all forms of human activity. Early Romanticism appeared with the singular figure of Manuel Jose Quintana. There are various themes relating to romanticist works e.g. oneself, passionate love, legendary and historic themes, religion, social demands, nature, and satire.
Realism in the end of the 19th century was mixed with Naturalism. The intellectual movement was in Modernism. It expresses a pessimistic judgement about Spain. After the First World War, the Spanish literature entered the period of Modernism and Surrealism associated with the philosophy of Hegel and Freud’s ‘Theory of the Unconscious. Researchers believe that Lorca was the 20th century link between and Spain the foundations of the Avant – garde movement.
 A new stage as a challenge to the past

There is a branch of the Cervantes Institute in Russia, whose task is to advance the development of cultural relations between Spain and Russia. Spanish literature can now be described as “post-modernism with a splash of realism”. Spanish writer and military journalist Arturo Perez-Reverte in his works occasionally permits amusing hoaxes with reference to his own works. War was a relevant feature in literature at all times. The genre science fiction is weak in modern Spanish literature. Spanish philosopher and journalist Juan Jacinto Muñoz Renhel, is the author of many titles which have been translated into English, French Russian, and German. His latest novel, “The Hypochondriac Killer” became a best seller in many countries around the world. Novelist and playwright Eduardo Mendoza is considered one of the greatest Spanish writers of our time. His novels are constantly filmed and read. The first novel by the Catalan anthropologist Alberto Sanchez Pinol “In the Heady Silence” about human fear has become a publishing phenomenon – this work has been translated into 22 languages in 24 countries. Currently, Spanish literature returns to the pedestal of the world literary stage.
1. “Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord? 
Hamlet: Words, words, words. 
Lord Polonius: What is the matter, my lord? 
Hamlet: Between whom? 
Lord Polonius: I mean the matter that you read, my lord.” 
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet