Bodas de sangre is perhaps the best test case of the fictionality of Lorca’s plays. La casa de Bernarda Alba would also be worthy of discussion in this regard, but it has a different relationship to its “real life” characters and events that merits separate treatment. Briefly, I believe that Bernarda is a fictional character too—modelled on a real person in the same way that occurs in many plays and novels, but fictional nonetheless, despite the note that the play is a “documental fotográfico.” The subtitle, “Drama de mujeres en los pueblos de España,” indicates an aspiration to depict representative characters, such as might be found in any village in Spain. Bernarda is a stylized caricature like Galdos’s Doña Perfecta. Adela’s suicide, the final event in the play and the most significant, is the author’s invention. Without this ending, the tension building up over the three acts would have no satisfactory dramatic resolution.
Some have suggested models for the characters and events in Romancero gitano as well. My view, however, is that these ballads are situated in a fictive, semi-mythic Andalusian landscape of the poet’s own imagining. It is no more a work of literary realism than Suites or Diván del Tamarit. Indeed, Lorca’s poetics reflect the anti-mimetic ethos of literary modernism. To read Lorca poems as direct reflections of reality is, in some sense, not to read them as poems in the first place. Of course, one of the central currents of “Lorca studies” is the reading his entire poetic production (and even his drama) as a direct reflection of his own life. A sensible approach, in my view, is to continue study the author’s biography in a nuanced way, but also to be cautious about putting forth readings that do not recognize that he is, above all, a creator of literary fictions. Since Lorca’s life is intrinsically interesting, the idea of ignoring his biography is not all that appealing.
There is no doubt the source of Lorca’s idea for Bodas de sangre is a newspaper report on the so-called “Crimen de Níjar.” The issue here is a more nuanced one: in what sense does this source have any explanatory value or direct relevance for interpreting the play itself? Does more information about the crime bring us closer or farther from the play?