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One of the great Spanish poets of the 20th century, Machado—along with Federico García Lorca and Juan Ramón Jiménez —is revered both in his homeland and internationally.

Born in 1875 in Seville, Machado grew up in the lush Spanish landscape of Andalusia which became a major subject of his poetry. His grandfather was a doctor, science professor, and Governor of Seville. His father, a lawyer, was particularly interested in Spanish folk songs associated with the flamenco.

In 1883 the family moved to Madrid, and Antonio was enrolled in the Instituto Libre, an institution noted for its freedom from the doctrine of church and state. However following the death of their father in 1893 their family circumstances became somewhat precarious and the brothers were forced to find work as translators and lexicographers.

Their work took the brothers to Paris in the late 1890s and early 1900s and helped expand Antonio’s poetic interests, as here he met the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, Oscar Wilde, Jean Moréas and others. He began writing poetry with a volume of folk-related work, and then, in 1903, published what would become one of his major volumes of poetry, “Soldades” (1903) and “Soldades, galerías y otros” (1907).

In 1912, following the tragic death of his wife, Machado composed and published “Campos de Castilla”, which was highly acclaimed and brought him in contact with the poets who would later be described as the Generation of ’98, writers who transformed Spanish literature in the early 20th century. Indeed his book made him a major force in that group, and characterized many of the themes cantering about the problems and goals of contemporary Spain.

Machado continued to work, study and write poems, plays and songs and became involved in politics and philosophy. In the early 1930s he felt new hope for the political future of troubled Spain, sharing the liberal values of his Madrid café associates. Conditions, however, soon began to disintegrate, and in the summer of 1936 the country was divided by civil war, with Germany and Italy joining the Franco led Nationalists, and Russia and other international idealists fighting for the Republican side. Sharing the Republican values, Machado was set at odds with his brother, who lived in the Nationalist stronghold of Burgos. Unable to remain in Madrid, he and his family moved to the Republican centre of Valencia. There he wrote newspaper articles and corresponded with various political groups.

In 1939 Machado and his family were evacuated to Barcelona, where he continued, despite serious health problems, to write political essays and poetry in defence of the Republican cause. As the war moved toward Barcelona, Machado, sick with pneumonia, attempted to travel with his elderly mother to the French border. He could not finish his travels to Paris, and in late February he died, his mother dying three days after.

Among English translations of Machado you will find my own “The Castilian Camp”, trans. by J. C. R. Green (Aquila/Phaethon, 1982). I also published a collection of translations Juan Ramon Jiminez (“The Flower Scenes”) and several Lorca translations in anthologies. If anyone manages to find copies – long out of print – on Amazon or by Googling them I’d be happy to sign copies for you!

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  1. Flamenco Dancing Guitar and Cajon Spanish Music » Blog Archive » Antonio Machado, Spanish Poet, was born on 26th July 1875 - August 3, 2008

    […] Kalavera wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptHis father, a lawyer, was particularly interested in Spanish folk songs associated with the flamenco. In 1883 the family moved to Madrid, and Antonio was enrolled in the Instituto Libre, an institution noted for its freedom from the … Read the rest of this great post here Posted in Uncategorized on August 2nd, 2008 | […]

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