This classic Spanish essay, still a staple of the national curriculum after more than a century and a half, encapsulates the curious charm and inevitable lament of the less glamourous aspects of the Mediterranean lifestyle. Marina Martin Cochet’s drawings perfectly complement the wry humour of the text.
Larra was born in Madrid in 1809. His father served as a regimental doctor in the French army, and, as an afrancesado, was compelled to leave the Peninsula with his family in 1812. In 1817 he returned to Spain, knowing less Spanish than French. Disorderly and imperfectly educated, after futile attempts to obtain a degree in medicine or law, he entered an imprudent marriage at the age of twenty, broke ties with his relatives, and became a journalist. He achieved fame under the pseudonyms of Juan Pérez de Munguía and Fígaro, was elected as deputy for Ávila, and a great career seemed to lie before him. In 1833 he met Dolores Armijo, a married woman who had already had a son, and they began an ill-fated affair. Four years later, when Dolores finally put an end to the relationship, Larra promptly put an end to his life.