From the Latin bohemius, the term bohemia has several meanings. The word is associated with the lifestyle that departs from social conventions and that privileges art and culture over material things. By extension, a bohemian person is one who leads this kind of life. For example: “Juan is a bohemian, lives in a train car and is dedicated to painting”, “Bohemian nights were a classic of Paris in the 1960’s”.
These uses of the term also make it possible to refer to bohemia in general, as the community of people who live in this way: “The bohemian people of Buenos Aires used to meet at Café Tortoni”, “After the closure of the cultural center, bohemia has lost their main refuge ”.
Bohemia is a region of the Czech Republic that borders Poland, Austria and Germany. It is surrounded by mountain ranges and has industry, agriculture and mining as the main sectors of its economy. Bohemia manufactures cars, iron, machinery and other products that are exported to various regions of the world, even beyond European borders.
From this derives the name that was later given to the homonymous cultural movement since numerous groups of gypsies left this region for France and other European countries and that were characterized by presenting lives and social values absolutely different from those of the rest of the people. In this way, the intellectuals that emerged from these groups began to be known as bohemians and later the concept was extended to all those who lead a disheveled lifestyle and that went against the values considered fundamental.
Bohemians, in addition to leading disorderly lives, sleeping anywhere and spending a lot of time without eating and not caring for the needs of the world, had a free way of thinking, were atheists or agnostics and criticized the lifestyle of the aristocracy. All this made them more repudiated by those who controlled the societies.
Bohemia in literature
In the history of literature there have been various movements that were led by people who had lifestyles that differed greatly from how most people did and who, although they did not share the same ideas with each other, could be found in the bohemian to confront the “normal” values imposed by the great social powers.
In Paris during the eighteenth century was a condensed group of authors who lived almost in conditions of poverty and devoting himself completely to literature that gave rise to the writer Henri Murger wrote his famous work “scenes of life in Bohemia”, which It became a kind of treatise for those who wanted to reveal themselves to dogmatic ideas and customs.
In Spain, more precisely in Madrid, an important Bohemian movement existed during the 19th century in which authors of various tendencies merged: realists, naturalists, avant-garde. Among them were writers from the Generation of ’98, the Novecentismo and the Generation of ’27, among others. In an extremely difficult time for letters, times of dictatorship and censorship, despite this, literature flourished in the low and high neighborhoods and spread throughout the city.
It is worth mentioning that many authors recorded what life was like for bohemian authors, such is the case that works such as “Adventures, inventions and mystifications by Silvestre Paradox”, written by Pío Baroja, or “Luces de bohemia” by the author Valle-Inclán, allow us to deeply approach this time. But surely the work that best recreates this period is “The masks of the hero”, by Juan Manuel de Prada.