Olmo Gallego, Lauro

Olmo Gallego, Lauro
b. 1922, Barco de Valdeorras, Orense; d. 1994, Madrid
   Though Olmo's fame as a writer depends primarily on his dramatic production, recognition as an author came initially as the result of his prose works, with Doce cuentos y uno mas (Twelve Short Stories Plus One), awarded the 1955 Leopoldo Alas Prize, and Ayer, 27 de octubre (Yesterday, October 27), for which Olmo was a finalist for the Nadal Prize in 1957. Olmo's work is deeply rooted in the emerging socially conscious literature of the 1960s. The oppressive social condition and widespread economic deprivation that characterized the country led Olmo to oppose the Franco dictatorship. His work, like that of other writers of his generation such as Carlos Muñiz and José María Rodríguez Méndez, seeks to condemn social injustice and champion individual freedom. He displays a penchant for popular scenes, colloquial language and archetypal characters. Documentary in style, his plays are essentially social allegories that bring the defects of Spanish society into sharp focus.
   Olmo's name is synonymous with La camisa (The Shirt) for which he was awarded the Valle-Inclán Theatre Prize in 1961, the Larra and National Theatre Prizes in 1962, and the Alvarez Quintero Prize in 1963. The play dramatizes vividly the plight and the aspirations of Spain's working class, and introduces several themes of national importance to which Olmo returns repeatedly throughout his career. Impoverishment, emigration and socialism are important themes in English Spoken (1968), Pablo Iglesias (1984) and La jerga nacional (National Jargon) (1984). La condecoración (The Medal) (1985) and Leónidas el Grande (Leonidas the Great), are among the playwright's most explicit anti-Francoist satires.
   In other plays such as El cuarto poder (The Fourth Power) (1984), the thematic concern is censorship in journalism and its effects on the freedom of speech. Olmo's preoccupation with the plight of working class women, witnessed initially through Lola's character in La camisa, evolves to encompass the general notion of feminine oppression in La señorita Elvira (Miss Elvira) (1982) and El cuerpo (The Body) (1966). Fantasy is yet another recurring theme in such works as José García (1981) and Cronicón del medioevo (Short Chronicle of the Middle Ages). Combining his fascination for allegory and didactic social commentary, Olmo has co-authored numerous dramatic works for children with his wife Pilar Enciso.
   By revealing in realistic fashion the oppression that accompanies authoritarian political ideologies and its negative effects on the freedom of individuals, Olmo's work raises pertinent moral and ethical questions about the individual and society, both in post-Civil War Spain and in society at large.
   Further reading
   - Fernández Insuela, A. (1986) Aproximación a Lauro Olmo: vida, ideas literarias y obra narrativa, Oviedo: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Oviedo (a useful account of Olmo's personal life and study of his non-dramatic works).
   - Oliva, C. (1979) Disidentes de la generación realista en la escena de hoy, Murcia: Universidad de Murcia (slightly dated but excellent overview of the thematic concerns of Olmo's theatre and that of other writers of his generation).
   - —— (1989) El teatro desde 1936, Madrid: Alhambra (chapter 5 provides a comprehensive summary of the artistic and ideological concerns of Spain's socially committed theatre).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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