Luis Muñoz: Inspiration and Influences

On writing, Inconlusos (‘Unfinished’)

Luis Muñoz describes his approach to writing the play.

“I read Lorca’s complete plays and poems again last summer. I’ve done this many times in my life, beginning when I was a teenager in Granada. At the University of Iowa, where I’m a professor, I teach a course about Lorca some semesters, so I read his work every time I teach this course. I love how the students try to discover new meanings in it, and how they receive the effect of his writing. But this summer I thought more about certain parts of his writing that are not so well known, because they are just notes, ideas, fragments, drafts. The openness of them is so rich and inspiring, like the beginning of a good conversation.”


What was it that inspired him about the poet?

“The potentiality of the unfinished work left by Lorca, and the tragedy of his execution viewed as the tragedy of an unfinished life. The unfinished has the energy of the possible, the gesture of a movement that wanted to continue. And the unfinished is literally the thing without an end, and in this sense, the unfinished is incredibly alive. On the other hand, the reasons why the work was not completed offer their own potency.”


How was he inspired by the poet’s house?

“Last summer I was living at the Residencia de Estudiantes in order to work on another project, and Alicia Gómez Navarro, the Residencia’s director, and Laura García Lorca, the director of the García Lorca Foundation, asked me about writing the mini-play. Well, I was living there, and the presence of Lorca is very strong in these spaces. I tried to giving a concrete form to the connection between Lorca and the buildings, the old rooms, the garden, the restaurant, the distance—in the 1920s—to Madrid’s downtown. Lorca was a brilliant explorer of the inner voices of spaces. One of the poems in the mini-play, for instance, is about his room, about his relationship with his room, the familiarity and the strangeness. Many of his writings are about the surprise and the tragedy of spaces contemplated as if with an ultrasensitive magnifying glass.”


Luis Muñoz


Luis Muñoz was born in Granada, Spain, in 1966. He has a degree in Spanish Philology and also in Romantic Philology. In a career spanning two decades, he has established himself as “one of the most brilliant poets of his generation,” (El Pais) who has been hailed for the clarity, originality and imagistic richness of his poems. His work, which includes: six published poetry collections: Septiembre (1991), Manzanas amarillas (1995), El apetito (1998), Correspondencias (2001),  Querido silencio (2006) and Limpiar pescado. Poesia reunida (2016), has received numerous awards including the Generation 27 award for Correspondencias, and the Ojo Critico award.  Muñoz has been an advisor to the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid for ten years and is currently a professor, teaching on the MFA in Spanish Creative Writing Programme in Spanish at the University of Iowa. He divides his time between Iowa and Madrid.


Federico Garcia Lorca


Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca was born on 5th June 1898, and died on 19 August 1936, shot by Franco’s soldiers, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. He was not only a poet, but also an acclaimed theatre director and playwright who achieved international recognition for being a member of Generation’ 27. This was a loose group, mostly poets, who introduced the ideas of European movements, such as Surrealsm, Futurism and Symbolism, into Spanish literature.

Garcia Lorca had a middle class upbringing, growing up in a small town outside Granada in a comfortable mansion. He took up Law at university, but soon gave it up after publishing his first book Impresiones y Viajes, in 1919. From there, he moved to Madrid, where he wrote plays, made performances, and wrote poetry. His interest in flamenco and gypsy culture translated into his poems, and during this period he met Salavador Dali, who introduced him to Surrealism.

Lorca’s poetry collection Romancero Gitano (the Gypsy Ballads), 1928 was particularly daring, dealing with themes of sexuality, and brought Lorca far-reaching fame.

La Residencia de Estudiantes, Madrid

In October 1919, Federico Garcia Lorca began the first of many stays at La Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid. Founded in 1910, it was the first cultural centre in Spain, a prestigious, vibrant hub for the discussion, development and exchange of ideas in Science and the Arts in Europe, which attracted many artists and intellectuals such Albert Einstein, Igor Stravinsky, J.M. Keynes and Le Corbusier. This provided Lorca with intellectual stimulation and companionship from which he was able to forge a prolific body of creative work.

On his regular visits,  Lorca wrote, studied, lectured, attended conferences and met other writers and artists some of whom such as the film maker Luis Bunuel and the artist Salvador Dali became close associates and collaborators. They enjoyed sessions round the piano, long discussions into the night, travels, cultural visits, public concerts and theatrical performances. The biopic Little Ashes (2009) depicts the Residencia in the 1920s and their relationship at that time. By 1928, Lorca was considered the official poet of the Institution, establishing it as the cultural centre of his generation.

There are numerous references to the Residencia in Lorca’s writing and dedications to the inhabitants, such as Oda a Salvador Dali  (1926), for whom Lorca had a strong, though unrequited, romantic attraction. His writings show the atmosphere of the place and the influence of his time there, in the use of symbolism and surrealist imagery in his poetry and plays and the sense of humour, elegance and increased sophistication in the crafting of his verse, as seen in The Suites published after his death.

Between his time in the Residencia and his family home in the countryside of Granada, La Huerta de San Vicente, Lorca travelled widely both within Spain and abroad in the pursuit of his artistic endeavours, attending conferences, lecturing, carrying out poetry readings, putting on theatrical and musical performances and writing and directing plays for the student travelling theatre company, La Barraca.

A military coup against the Republican Government in 1936 brought an end to the age of rich and enlightened intellectual, artistic and political expansion of the early 20th century, which Lorca had enjoyed and thrived on at the Residencia, from his first visit as a young student in 1919 until his untimely death at the start of the Spanish Civil War.

Now, owned by the Spanish State and associated with the Spanish Research Council, the Residencia is one of the most prominent cultural centres in Madrid, which in addition to hosting concerts, conferences and exhibitions, is also visited and inhabited for short periods each year by over three thousand writers, artists, researchers and other professionals from all over the world. In 2010 the centre held an exhibition on the influence of La Residencia de Estudiantes on the work of Dali and Lorca. It also houses a library and the Centro de Documentacion, which holds Lorca’s private archives, including his correspondence with Dali and others.

Lorca’s country home, in Granada, the Huerta de San Vicente a farmhouse in the countryside of the Vega, with its cultivated fields, orchards and a beautiful garden, is now a museum dedicated to Lorca’s life and works.

The Residencia de Estudiantes is the setting of a new play by Luis Muñoz called ‘Inconclusos’ or ‘Unfinished’. The play has been adapted for performance by GoodDog Theatre Company.