I actually had read this book before. I was a Spanish major in college and I had to do a report on this book for my Spanish literature class. Of course that time it was in Spanish. I greatly enjoyed reading it in English. It was actually better than I remember. I’m not saying its fantastic and I’ll read it all the time, but an occasional read may once a year of so it would be good for.
It is a surprisingly short read, only seven chapters long (about 60 pages). The story follows a boy named Lazaro de Tormes (Lazarillo is his nickname) as he writes a letter to “Your Honour” about his life before ending up being the town-crier for the church in Toledo, Spain. Each chapter covers a different master he served. The first is a rather evil blind beggar he is employed by to help move from city to city and to run errands. The second is a stingy priest who almost starves him to death. The third is a rather nice country squire who actually turns out to be more poor than Lazarillo himself. Lazarillo actually goes back to begging for the both of them to earn food and money. Next is another priest, not quite as bad as his previous matters, but does too much traveling for Lazarillo. The fifth master was another clergyman, this one a trickster who sold “Papal Indulgences” that would guarantee a place in heaven. Lazarillo leaves him as well. He ends up in Toledo working for a priest by leading a water mule around town and selling water.
Through each episode of his servitude, you hear the tricks and scams the masters played in order to get money. The majority of the time, Lazarillo is either denied food or given very little so his master can save money. You learn his struggle with hunger and poverty and feel for his pain. You seem him try to stay true to his faith and not become an evil person like his masters. He ends up as he wanted – a respectable citizen with some money and a home.
The book is written very simply. It is a very quick, easy read with simple vocabulary and sentence structures. There is not a whole lot of cultural information imparted, but you get a little bit of knowledge about the different classes and what is expected. The country squire Lazarillo serves actually shares the most about expectations and the reality of gentlemen during the time. There is also a lot of scheming in the church by the priests.
I wouldn’t recommend this to just anyone. It is definitely a book you would go looking for instead of just picking it up and reading it. It would be quite boring to a lot of people. I like it for its simplicity and its contribution to Spanish literature. If you are looking for an educational read, a small biography of hard times, this is the book for you.