Galician Literature Day, in memoriam Carlos Casares


Today, 17 May, is Galician Literature Day. This year, the event is dedicated to Carlos Casares, one of the writers behind the Galician literary revival. Sponsored by the Academy of the Galician Language (Real Academia Galega, RAG), Galician Literature Day takes place on 17 May because it is the day when Rosalía de Castro’s Galician Songs were published. In addition, this year is the 150th anniversary of this writer’s birth, in 1837.

There will be special activities and events in most Galician towns: a full programme designed by cultural organisations and government agencies to celebrate pride in Gallego (the language of Galicia) and pay tribute to Carlos Casares, whose works (in Gallego, of course) include Xoguetes pra un tempo prohibido, A galiña azul and Os mortos daquel verán.

Carlos Casares (Ourense, 1941-Vigo, 2002) was a multi-faceted author and a fierce guardian of the Galician language. In fact, his voice was one of the most powerful in twentieth-century Galician literature. Holding a degree in Philosophy and Letters and a specialisation in Romance Studies, he won the Galaxia literary award on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Editorial Galaxia, a publisher of Galician authors.

After that, Casares wrote books for children, essays and journalistic articles. He wrote about Galician intellectuals like Ramón Otero Pedrayo, Vicente Risco and Manuel Curros Enríquez, and translated world classics into his mother tongue: The Little Prince, The Dung-Beetle Flies at Dusk, The Old Man and the Sea

His many achievements earned him a place as president of the Consello da Cultura Galega (1996-2002) and a chair at the Galician Academy, where he was the youngest member. Casares died of a heart attack in 2002. He was 60 years old.

Rosalía de Castro and the Galician revival

In 1963, 17 May was established by the Galician Academy as Galician Literature Day. In choosing this date, RAG was paying tribute to Rosalía de Castro, whose Galician Songs, first published on 17 May 1863, are one of the seminal literary works in Gallego.

Rosalía de Castro was born in Santiago de Compostela in 1837. When she wrote her earliest poems, Romanticism was in decline and Realism was the norm. However, on the basis of such concepts as tradition, folk culture and regional languages, more akin to Romanticism, she led the movement known as Rexurdimento, that is, Galician revival.

In her works, De Castro creates an intimate atmosphere and takes a pessimistic stance, clearly linked to sad events in her life: a difficult childhood, economic hardship, the death of some of her children, her own poor health…

Together with Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Rosalía de Castro is considered as one of Spain’s greatest late romantic (or post-romantic) writers. She wrote poems and novels, both in Gallego and in Spanish. Her great literary legacy can best be appreciated in Follas Novas or En las orillas del Sar two collections of intimate, deep poems, and in Galician Songs, a masterpiece of social poetry.

In addition to her struggle in the linguistic and literary field, Rosalía fought for the advancement and empowerment of women. She spent her final years in La Matanza, the family home in Padrón (A Coruña), where she died in 1885. She is buried in the Church of Santo Domingo de Bonaval, in Santiago de Compostela, at the Pantheon of Illustrious Men and Women from Galicia. La Matanza is now a house museum.

Concerts and exhibitions

This year’s Galician Literature Day celebrations include more than 100 activities and events focusing on Carlos Casares and the Galician language. In Ourense, Casares’s hometown, the Carlos Casares Foundation is presenting ‘Os mundos de Carlos Casares’ (The Worlds of Carlos Casares), an exhibition of 500 items that include childhood photos, articles penned by Vicente Risco, an original motion-picture projector with films of the author, newspaper clips, and a marriage certificate.

 ‘Os mundos de Carlos Casares’ will be on at the Ángel Valente Centre until 21 May. Afterwards, it will travel to other cities in Galicia: Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Ribeira, Carballo, Vigo, Lugo, Pontevedra and A Limia.