The beginning of the golden age of Spanish literature and the particular socio-political circumstances of early sixteenth century Spain made prime the opportunity for the emergence of the picaresque vel, an early form of the first-person narrative vel relating the adventures of a rogue or lowborn traveler (Spanish picaro) as he drifts through the Spanish countryside from one social milieu to ather in an effort to survive. Influenced largely by the medieval tradition of the fabliaux and by the early Italian Renaissance, and structured upon a foundation of anecdotes, proverbs, popular beliefs, and folk tales, the picaro's discourse becomes a satirical survey of the hypocrisies and corruptions of society. The picaresque vel is exemplified by the prototypical and anymously written Lazarillo de Tormes, published in 1554, in which the poor boy Lazaro describes his services under seven successive lay and clerical masters, each of whom hides a dubious character beneath a mask of hypocrisy. The choice of characters and the backdrop for Lazarillo de Tormes focuses the reader's gaze upon the heart of Spain's national dilemma after the crucial socio-political events of the 1520s. Because of the vel's deliberate social criticisms, irreverent wit, anticlerical attitude and string of mischievous misadventures, Lazarillo was both included in the Index of Prohibited Books in 1559 and, nevertheless, one of the most widely read books of its time. This dual-language, antated critical edition of Lazarillo de Tormes presents the complete text of the first picaresque vel in both English and Spanish. The translation attempts to capture in modern English t only the meaning of the historical text, but also the genuine qualities of its original style.
Alfonso J. Garcia Osuna is the chair of the Department of Foreign Languages at Kingsborough, a College of the City University of New York. He is also the author of The Cuban Filmography: 1897 through 2001 (2003).