Almost lost to literary history, Felipe Alfau was rediscovered in 1988 with the republication of his proto-postmodernist novel Locos; in 1990 his only other novel, Chromos (written in 1948), was published for the first time, winning great critical acclaim and a nomination for the National Book Award. His published work is now complete with Sentimental Songs, his collection of poetry.
Written between 1923 and 1987 (thus predating and postdating his novels), these poems represent a lifetime’s reflections and personal experiences. Though the poems were written in Alfau’s native tongue of Spanish and look back to classic Spanish poetry of late nineteenth century, they share a note of acerbic parody with his English-language novels. As translator Ilan Stavans writes in his introduction, Sentimental Songs “is a rebuttal of Romanticism, but it emerges from the very ranks of the Romantic movement and its sense of life.”
This is a bilingual edition, with Alfau’s Spanish facing Stavans’s English translations (made in consultation with the author). A substantial introduction places the poems in the context of Alfau’s fiction and in the larger context of Spanish poetry in general.
Spanish novelist and poet Felipe Alfau (1902-1999) was born in Barcelona, made his living as a translator, and wrote two novels in English, Chromos and Locos. His work was largely ignored during his lifetime: he made $250 for Locos, and Chromos sat in a desk drawer from 1948 to 1990. On publication, it was nominated for the 1990 National Book Award. Alfau died in a New York City nursing home in 1999.