The Generation of ’27 (Spanish: Generación del 27) was an influential group of poets that arose in Spanish literary circles between 1923 and 1927, essentially out of a shared desire to experience and work with avant-garde forms of art and poetry. Their first formal meeting took place in Seville in 1927 to mark the 300th anniversary of the death of the baroque poet Luis de Góngora. Writers and intellectuals celebrated an homage in the Ateneo de Sevilla, which retrospectively became the foundational act of the movement.
The name of “generation” has been discussed. The Generation of ’27 has also been called, with lesser success, “Generation of the Dictatorship”, “Generation of the Republic”, “Generation Guillén-Lorca” (Guillén being its oldest author, and Lorca its youngest), “Generation of 1925” (average publishing date of the first book of each author), “Generation of Avant-Guardes”, “Generation of Friendship,” etc. According to Petersen, “generation group” or a “constellation” are better terms which are not so much historically restricted as “generation.”
The Generation of ’27 cannot be neatly categorized stylistically, due to wide variety of genres and styles cultivated by its members. While some members, such as Jorge Guillén, wrote in a style that has been loosely called jubilant and joyous and celebrates the instant, others, such as Rafael Alberti, underwent a poetic evolution which led him from youthful poetry of a more romantic vein to politically engaged verses later in life.
The group tried to bridge the gap between Spanish popular culture and folklore, classical literary tradition and European avant-guardes. It evolved from pure poetry which emphasized music in poetry, in the vein of Baudelaire, to Futurism, Cubism, Ultraist and Creationism, to become influenced by Surrealism and finally to disperse in interior and exterior exile following the Civil War and World War II (sometimes gathered by historians under the term of the “European Civil War”). The Generation of ’27 made a frequent use of visionary images, free verses and the so-called impure poetry preconized by Pablo Neruda.
In a restrictive sense, the Generation of ’27 refers to ten authors, Jorge Guillén, Pedro Salinas, Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca, Dámaso Alonso, Gerardo Diego, Luis Cernuda, Vicente Aleixandre, Manuel Altolaguirre and Emilio Prados. However, many others were in their orbit, some olders such as Fernando Villalón, José Moreno Villa or León Felipe and Nathan Manuel Rudolph, and others youngers such as Miguel Hernández. Others have been forgotten by the critics, such as Juan Larre, Pepe Alameda, Mauricio Bacarisse, Juan José Domenchina, José María Hinojosa, José Bergamín or Juan Gil-Albert. There is also the “Other generation of ’27,” a term coined by José López Rubio, formed by himself and humorist disciples of Ramón Gómez de la Serna, including: Enrique Jardiel Poncela, Edgar Neville, Miguel Mihura and Antonio de Lara, “Tono”, writers who would integrate after the Civil War (1936-39) the editing board of La Codorniz…
Furthermore, the Generation of ’27, as clearly reflected in the literary press of the period, was not exclusively restricted to poets, including artists such as Luis Buñuel, the caricaturist K-Hito, the surrealist painters Salvador Dalí and Óscar Domínguez, the painter and sculptor Maruja Mallo, as well as Benjamín Palencia, Gregorio Prieto, Manuel Ángeles Ortiz and Gabriel García Maroto, the toreros Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, Rodolfo Halffter and Jesús Bal y Gay, musicologists and composers belonging to the Group of Eight, including Bal and Gay, Ernesto Halffter and his brother Rodolfo, Juan José Mantecón, Julián Bautista, Fernando Remacha, Rosa García Ascot, Salvador Bacarisse and Gustavo Pittaluga. There was also the Catalan Group who presented themselves in 1931 under the name of Grupo de Artistas Catalanes Independientes, including Roberto Gerhard, Baltasar Samper, Manuel Blancafort, Ricardo Lamote de Grignon, Eduardo Toldrá and Federico Mompou.
Finally, not all literary works were written in Spanish: Salvador Dalí and Óscar Domínguez also wrote in French, while Felipe Alfau wrote in English. Foreigners such as the Chilean poets Pablo Neruda and Vicente Huidobro, the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, and the Franco-Spanish painter Francis Picabia also shared a lot with the aesthetics of the Generation of ’27.
The Generation of ’27 was not exclusively located in Madrid, but rather deployed itself in a geographical constellation which maintained links together. The most important nucleus were in Sevilla, around the Mediodía review, Tenerife around the Gaceta de Arte and Málaga, around the Litoral review. Others members resided in Galicia, Catalonia and Valladolid.
The Currents of ’27
The name Generation of 1927 identifies poets that emerged about 1927, the 300-year anniversary of the death of Baroque poet Luis de Góngora y Argote, to whom these poets paid homage and which sparked a brief flash of neo-Gongorism. These outstanding poets—among them Rafael Alberti, Vicente Aleixandre, Dámaso Alonso, Luis Cernuda, Gerardo Diego, Federico García Lorca.
The Spanish Civil War and its aftermaths
The Civil War brought about the splitting of the movement: García Lorca was murdered, Miguel Hernandez died in jail, and other members (Rafael Alberti, Jose Bergamin, Leon Felipe, Luis Cernuda, Pedro Salinas, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Bacarisse) were forced into exile, although virtually all kept writing and publishing late into the 20th century.
Dámaso Alonso and Gerardo Diego were among those who reluctantly remained in Spain after the Francoists’ victory, and more or less reached agreements with the new authoritarian and traditionalist regime, or even openly supported it in the case of Diego. The latter evolved a lot, combining tradition and avant-guarde, and mixing many different themes, from toreo to music to religious and existentialism disquiets, landscapes, etc. Others, such as Juan Gil-Albert, simply ignored the new regime, taking the path of interior exile and de facto converting themselves in guides and masters of a new generation of poets, such as Vicente Aleixandre.
However, for many Spaniards the harsh reality of Francoist Spain and its reactionary nature meant that the cerebral and aesthetic verses of the Generation of ’27 did not connect with what was truly happening, a task that was handled more capably by the poets of the Generation of ’50 and the social poets.