From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
6.2 (1986): 97-111.
Copyright © 1986, The Cervantes Society of America
||JOHN G. WEIGER|
EL SAFFAR SPEAKS of Cervantes'
gallery of authors who have
failed.1 She uses author
in its widest sense, so that Tomás Rodaja, for instance, fits well
into this designation. Here I should like to reduce the term to its most
basic meaning: writer. Further, I should like to examine the representation
of those who, in the two parts of Don Quixote, attempt to write. It
will be seen that the structural differences between the two parts noted
by many critics (a relatively imperfect, linear form and a more nearly perfect,
circular form, respectively) are reflected in Cervantes' differentiated depiction
of writers in 1605 and in 1615.
One of the first things we are told about the protagonist is that he had a desire to complete a chivalric romance, that is, to write the sequel to one of those already in existence, specifically the Belianís de Grecia (I, 1).2 There is no little irony in this apparently gratuitous detail. In the first place, Cervantes here is mocking the convention of ending the romances with a promise to produce a continuation. Secondly, such sequels not infrequently were penned by writers other than the original author. Thirdly, Cervantes himself resorted to this device, most notably in La Galatea, which he recurrently promised to supplement with a second part right up to the end of his life. All of
to Romance: A Study of Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), p. 60.
2 References are to the edition of Don Quijote de la Mancha by Martín de Riquer (Barcelona: Planeta, 1975) and are indicated by part and chapter in the text.
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this assumes an ironic twist when Avellaneda takes up this convention and
brings out his second part of the Quixote. When Cervantes
playfully suggested that his protagonist had wanted to finish one of the
romances, he of course had no idea how this device would come back to haunt
him. The irony extends, therefore, to the fact that an inferior writer like
Avellaneda was able to accomplish with Don Quixote what Don Quixote
himself failed to do with regard to Belianís de Grecia. Of
course, the fact that Don Quixote did realize this ambition in a radically
different sense by enacting his own modern version of a chivalric romance
is the reason that we have anything to say about him at all. But let us note
that in this early reference to his having wanted specifically to write,
he failed to do so.
That he did not produce a piece of literature no doubt is of great relief to his niece. Having successfully involved the priest in an inquisition of her uncle's library, she is not satisfied with a purging of the chivalric works in the collection. Pastoral works must also be removed, for her uncle is not beyond taking up a life in accordance with these books as well. What is even worse is that he might take up the writing of poetry (I, 6). We need not dwell here on the evident satire: The niece's naivete regarding the enfermedad incurable y pegadiza that she associates with the profession of poet and the text's veiled suggestion that the madness of enacting chivalric and pastoral romances is on a par with the madness of that profession require no commentary. But let us note once more that someone who knows the protagonist's fancies reveals him to be a potential writer. Stated another way, however, we may remark that despite this potential, he has in fact not written.
When Don Quixote sets out on his first sally, he invokes the future chronicler of his adventures:
¿Quién duda sino que en los venideros tiempos, cuando salga a luz la verdadera historia de mis famosos hechos, que el sabio que los escribiere no ponga, cuando llegue a contar esta mi primera salida tan de mañana, desta manera?: Apenas había el rubicundo Apolo tendido por la faz de la ancha y espaciosa tierra las doradas hebras de sus hermosos cabellos . . . cuando el famoso caballero don Quijote de la Mancha, dejando las ociosas plumas, subió sobre su famoso caballo Rocinante, y comenzó a caminar por el antiguo y conocido campo de Montiel (I, 2).
It is frequently stated that here Don Quixote creates his chronicler, a foreshadowing of Cide Hamete Benengeli. Let us focus on the fact that he expresses a need for a scribe. In a parody of the romances, he
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can already imagine the flowery beginning of his biography. But we should
note the contrast between his facility for imitative recitation and the need
for someone else to put it in writing. The reader has been alerted to this
concern with the difficulty of writing ever since the prologue. It will be
recalled that the prologuist pictures himself with his pen on his ear, unable
to write the prologue until the friend voices it for him. To some extent
the situations are obversely analogous: Don Quixote is portrayed as dictating
to an imagined chronicler whereas the prologuist portrays himself as writing
what the friend dictates to him.
It is often remarked that the principal sources of Don Quixote's parodic behavior in Sierra Morena are Amadís de Gaula and Orlando furioso (because these are the models he cites). In the long run this is true, but the immediate influence is Cardenio, not only for his own irrational behavior based on love for a lady but as well for the love poems he had written. It is this last point that plants in Don Quixote's mind the idea of writing to Dulcinea. (As if to emphasize the connection, Don Quixote writes the letter in Cardenio's notebook.) As readers will recall, the letter is never delivered because Sancho forgets to take it along on his aborted mission to El Toboso. Instead, Sancho produces a distorted version based on his memory. Accordingly, what Don Quixote has written does not reach its intended reader. But whether we focus on this simple fact or whether we stress the burlesque resolution given to Don Quixote's efforts by Sancho's version, we have here an instance in which the purpose of the writing is not realized. There can be no successful writing if the writing is not read. What is more, after reading Cardenio's sonnet, Don Quixote tells Sancho that he is to take a letter, escrita en verso de arriba abajo, to Dulcinea (I, 23). The letter Don Quixote writes is of course entirely in prose. We may possibly infer that it was Cardenio's own prose letter ironically, not delivered to his lady either that influenced the change, but from the evidence we have we can only conclude that, like the sequel to Belianís de Grecia, the verse letter Don Quixote wanted to write was not written.
Don Quixote does not remain idle in Sierra Morena. Having decided to imitate not Roldán (Orlando) but Amadís, he proceeds to write poetry on the bark of trees. To some extent his choice is a practical one, as Francisco Márquez Villanueva has pointed out: To imitate Roldán by uprooting trees would require inordinate strength and effort.3 But the choice to emulate Amadís permits as well the
Personajes y temas del Quijote (Madrid: Taurus, 1975),
p. 46: La [p. 100] demencia furiosa del
paladín ariostesco no resultaba, por sus proporciones, nada fácil
de imitar . . . .
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obverse treatment: Instead of destroying trees he writes on them. It is
interesting to note that despite the declared intention to imitate Amadís
when the latter, in his identity as Beltenebrós, did penance on the
Peña Pobre, Don Quixote in fact inverts matters related in Orlando
furioso. Amadís did not write on trees but Orlando went mad when
he read the carvings of Angelica confirming her relations with Medoro. The
commingling of these influences not only is typical of Cervantes' handling
of source material but betrays his desire to direct this portion of the plot
so that Don Quixote would write as he
Much of what he writes is lost to posterity, a further development of the failure to have his writings read. But even what is left for us to read is of poor quality, a judgment reached not only by critical readers but by the narrator, who makes this evident point precisely in order to make the larger point: Don Quixote's failure as a writer.
There are three ways in which a writer can fail. The most obvious is the inability to put words on paper, despite a desire to do so (Don Quixote does not write a sequel to a romance). Perhaps more frustrating is the absence of a reader, for an author wishes, indeed needs to be read (Don Quixote's letter is not read, and most of his writings on trees are lost, not to mention those that he wrote in the sand, a manner of writing symbolically antithetical to the purpose of most writing). Finally, that writing which is indeed realized may be poorly received (Don Quixote's poems are ridiculed by his own biographer and, again symbolically, his letter is converted to farce, the only reading it is given.)
All three of these concerns are present in the prologue. The prologuist is at a loss for words and cannot lift his pen from his ear. Moreover, he is concerned about the reception of his text and requires the reassurance of the friend regarding the marks of erudition that this book ostensibly lacks. Most important of all, the prologuist's concerns revolve around the doubts that plague him regarding the existence of a reader. His fear that he is not communicating animates the inability to write a prologue, for this prefatory passage constitutes the author's most direct and personal address to the reader.
pertinent passages may be found in Ariosto's Orlando furioso, canto
23, stanzas 102-14. For a discussion of Cervantes' reshaping of such source
material, see John G. Weiger, The Substance of Cervantes, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1985), Chapter 2: Gilt O'erdusted: The
Problem of Originality.
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This concern for the reader's existence reveals
itself in the increasing desire to ingratiate himself with whoever might
be out there. From the intriguing desocupado lector at the beginning
to the lector suave toward the end, the conventional captatio
benevolentiae betrays a fear that the reader, who is reading this prologue
because in his idleness he has nothing better to do, may abandon the work.
The appearance of the friend may be interpreted as a dream because of an
anachronism with which few commentators have concerned themselves: The friend
gives advice not only about the prologue but about how to write the body
of the text itself, at the same time presenting his judgment of that text,
that is, revealing that he has already read the
book.5 The self-portrait of the author with
pen over his ear and chin in hand is also a perfect representation of someone
about to doze off. His subsequent acceptance of the friend's words as the
prologue itself (sin ponerlas en disputa) is very close to
Campuzano's acceptance of the dogs' colloquy (todo lo tomé de
coro, y casi por las mismas palabras que había oído lo
escribí otro día, sin buscar colores retóricos para
adornarlo, ni que añadir ni quitar, para hacerle
gustoso).6 The dream of the prologue
represents the author's fears and it attempts to assuage them not only with
arguments that poke fun at the convention of prologues (particularly as used
by Lope de Vega), but with the overriding consideration that there is indeed
a reader, a friendly reader, gracioso y bien entendido.
It would be possible to end this essay here by concluding simply that all of the foregoing displays Cervantes' cleverness. We may further conclude that the prologue and those passages where Don Quixote attempts to write evince Cervantes' concern with the problems of the writer and the latter's need for readers, not to mention readers disposed to receive the work in a friendly even loving, in the case of Dulcinea frame of mind. But we need to make additional observations.
I submit that the concerns discussed above betray the very real concerns of Miguel de Cervantes. We recall his belief that he was
was a matter that disconcerted Francisco Rodríguez Marín, as
he remarked in his edition (Madrid: Atlas, 1947), I, 41, n.: En éste
y los anteriores consejos el gracioso y bien entendido amigo
de Cervantes se pasa de listo; pues ¿a qué cuento podían
venir, escrita ya la historia de don Quijote y pendiendo sólo del
prólogo el sacarla a correr mundo?
6 El casamiento engañoso, in Novelas ejemplares (Mexico: Porrúa, 1977), p. 285.
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daring in the presentation of La Galatea, for so many poets fear publication because of the harm it might do to their reputations:
Mas son tan ordinarias y tan diferentes las humanas dificultades, y tan varios los fines y las acciones, que unos, con deseo de gloria, se aventuran; otros, con temor de infamia, no se atreven a publicar lo que, una vez descubierto, ha de sufrir el juicio del vulgo, peligroso y casi siempre engañado. Yo, no porque tenga razón para ser confiado, he dado muestras de atrevido en la publicación deste libro, sino porque no sabría determinarme, destos dos inconvenientes, cuál sea el mayor: o el de quien con ligereza, deseando comunicar el talento que del cielo ha recebido, temprano se aventura a ofrecer los frutos de su ingenio a su patria y amigos, o el que de puro escrupuloso, perezoso y tardío, jamás acabando de contentarse de lo que hace y entiende, tiniendo sólo por acertado lo que no alcanza, nunca se determina a descubrir y comunicar sus escriptos.7
When he writes the prologue to Part I of Don
Quixote, Cervantes is still conscious of the risks of publishing his
writings. In fact, the silence of the two decades between the Galatea
and the first Quixote, though attributable to many nonliterary events
in his life, no doubt contributed to a writer's version of stage fright that
is felt by many who have been away from the practice of their profession.
Edwin Williamson suggests that Cervantes clearly relishes this image
of himself as a timid, painfully honest writer, neurotically inhibited from
publishing the fruits of his imagination for fear of being rejected on the
whim of a despotic reader.8 Given the
similar concern in the earlier Galatea prologue and the bravado of
later prologues,9 I do not share Williamson's
belief that Cervantes relishes the neurosis, even in a fictive representation.
Rather, I think that the reservations, though couched in satirical allusions,
reflect the real anxiety of a writer as he exposes his work to public
This is a paradoxical matter, for we also know how much he
from the edition of Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1961),
8 The Half-Way House of Fiction: Don Quixote and Arthurian Romance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), pp. 84-85.
9 Avalle-Arce, in his edition of the Persiles (Madrid: Castalia, 1969), p. 10, writes of the actitud de valerosa confianza en sí mismo [al declarar] que el Persiles será el mejor libro de entretenimiento escrito en español, y esto en la dedicatoria del segundo Quijote, nada menos. It is evidently to these later writings and not to the 1605 prologue that Américo Castro alludes when he speaks of Cervantes' arrogancia in Los prólogos al Quijote, in Hacia Cervantes (Madrid: Taurus, 1957), p. 205.
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relished the publication of his works. (Later prologues will present a more
confident writer. He will repeatedly enumerate past and future works that,
he is convinced, will earn him fame. The 1615 Quixote in particular
addresses not an idle reader but an eager and impatient one, in fact a plural
reader embracing the ilustre and the plebeyo classes
that constitute the realization of the writer's dream: a readership.) The
ambivalence is not uncommon among writers, for it is only natural to be
apprehensive about the reception of one's writings once they are set in print
and exposed for all to criticize and, subsequently, to be proud of one's
works after they are published and as they accumulate. In Cervantes' case,
the reluctance to release his writings to the scrutiny of the readers is
Cervantes has left us a number of clues that support the image of one reluctant to publish. The prologue to La Galatea, though it alludes to his daring as contrasted with the timidity of those who never or belatedly get around to publishing their works, betrays his apprehension precisely because the publication of his first major work is, to his mind, daring. Although false modesty is a conventional part of prologues, the modesty implicit in the Galatea prologue only tangentially relates to the quality of his writing. What is stressed is the daring required to expose that writing to public scrutiny, particularly that of the vulgo which, he says, is nearly always mistaken. What modesty there is in this prologue, then, has less to do with any diffidence regarding his work than with his doubts about the public. In short, his concern lies principally with his work's publication.
The description of Cervantes' manuscripts in a trunk (as he tells us in the prologue to the Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses) is an echo of the discovery of El curioso impertinente and Rinconete y Cortadillo in an old suitcase. The reader of 1605 might assume that the Curioso was written by Cervantes, but the title of the second tale found in the suitcase could have no significance for readers before 1613. We are, therefore, reading a unique bit of literary history: Unlike the allusion to a published work when the priest finds La Galatea and identifies its author as his friend Cervantes, the priest must read the unpublished Curioso without knowing the name of its author. (Interpolated tales by authors other than the author of the larger work in which they were published were not uncommon.) I think it not unreasonable to conjecture that Cervantes passed over the temptation to place his name on the manuscript and use the priest's recognition of his friend as a convenient captatio benevolentiae, because Cervantes himself
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entertained doubts about the tale. It is significant that he allows the priest
to bring out an artistic flaw: the tale's apparent violation of
verisimilitude. In 1615, Cervantes allows Sansón Carrasco to report
only that the tale was considered by readers to be irrelevant to the principal
plot, but he specifies that it was not criticized por mala ni por mal
razonada (II, 3). By leaving the tale anonymous while it is symbolically
unpublished, Cervantes in 1605 protects himself against the reader's criticism
and betrays his concern regarding publication. For analogous reasons, the
other tale still in the suitcase, Rinconete y Cortadillo, also remains
In 1605 Cervantes presents a picture of his unpublished novellas left in a suitcase in an inn. In 1615 he tells of a past occasion when he consigned his unperformed (and of course unpublished) dramatic works to a trunk. We need not take these anecdotes literally, but the image of an author who finds reasons to store away his writings rather than rush to publish them is manifest. It is tempting to speculate whether his allusion to otras obras que andan por ahí descarriadas, y quizá sin el nombre de su dueño, [llamado] comúnmente Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Prologue to the 1613 Novelas ejemplares), is a revelation that these other works were unsigned for the same reasons I have been suggesting here.
If the image of manuscripts in trunks and valises corresponds to a reluctance to publish, nothing could be more symbolic of that image than the fact that Persiles y Sigismunda was not published at all in Cervantes' lifetime. I must stress that it is only symbolic, for I do not mean to suggest that Cervantes had not intended to publish the work while he was alive. But the history of the Persiles' redaction goes hand in hand with the hesitancy that we have noted. In fact, Cervantes declared that he was puesto a pique para dar a la estampa al gran Persiles in Chapter IV of the Viaje del Parnaso, the latter work's text having been completed in 1612, that is, some four years before his death. What is more, the first clue that we have to the Persiles' existence comes in the very chapter of Don Quixote in which we learn of Rinconete's existence in a suitcase. It is in I, 47 that the Canon pronounces what is now generally accepted as the blueprint for the Persiles and it is at the beginning of I, 48 that he admits to having written some one hundred pages.10
Eisenberg, in his El Bernardo de Cervantes fue su libro
de caballerías, Anales Cervantinos, 21 (1983), 101-117,
makes a convincing though wholly speculative case for considering the canon's
formula the [p. 105] outline of the famoso
Bernardo alluded to in Cervantes' dedication of the
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It is evident that in those pages the Canon
had tried to write not a conventional chivalric romance but an ideal romance
epic in prose whose prescription he voices. As Alban K. Forcione makes clear:
In effect, the new epic must be a purification of romance. It is of
such a process of purification that the Canon of Toledo speaks as he proclaims
the classical theories of literature and offers the formula for Cervantes'
own new romance.11 Juan Bautista
Avalle-Arce believes that the Canon's prescription is in fact a description
of Books I and II of the Persiles. What is more, he thinks it typical
of Cervantes el proponer como futuro modelo literario, por boca del
canónigo, a una obra que ya tenía escrita, como sería
el caso con Persiles
I-II.12 Avalle goes further: He
notes that in Books III and IV the authorial interventions reflect the technique
of the completed Quixote, whereas in Books I and II, that is, in those
parts that Avalle believes to have been penned before 1605, the author's
direct participation is made con sumo tiento y
timidez.13 It bears recalling that
although the Canon has shown his manuscript to both discretos and
ignorantes and received approval from both, he has not gone forward
with his book, partly because he believes it to be alien to his profession
but also because he does not wish to subject himself to the confuso
juicio del desvanecido vulgo (I, 48). Since he has shown his manuscript
not only to learned readers but as well to representatives of the
vulgo, his reason for not having completed the work is his reluctance
to subject it to the hazards of publication.
To say that Don Quixote deals with readers and authors is not to say anything new. A further refinement of the concept of author to the limited meaning of writer evinces the presence of a number of writers who, in the 1605 Quixote, fail to consummate their intention to write. Don Quixote is only the most notable of such characters, although it is perhaps debatable just how much this is noted. We do note instead his actions. Acting in accordance with literary precedent, he escapes the discipline required of the writer. We are not surprised that he tips the scale in favor of arms over letters. His arguments regarding the hard life to which men of arms are subjected are not
Cervantes, Aristotle, and the Persiles (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1970), p. 7.
12 Introduction to his edition cited in note 9, p. 18.
13 Ibid, p. 19.
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balanced by even a token recognition of the difficulties inherent in the
craft of writing. His is the typical response of the man of action who believes
that to sit at a desk and write is an easy task until he lifts the
pen and finds that it is heavier than the sword. It is noteworthy that in
all those years of reading before he assumed his quixotic identity, the
protagonist, despite his desire to finish Belianís de Grecia,
never wrote anything. Perhaps if he had, our historian would have known whether
his name was Quixada, Quesada, or Quexana without the need for conjecture.
I think it erroneous to interpret the protagonist as a protean figure. His ability to imitate (or even impersonate, as he does in I, 5 and I, 7) heroic personages is all of a piece. Don Quixote fails because his is a limited personality. After five decades of anonymity (which symbolizes his not having accomplished anything in any field), the only thing that attracts the attention of a biographer (or biographers) is his imitation of the behavior of characters created by others. Although the particulars may be unique, the parameters of his conduct are circumscribed by writers who have written the books he knows so well.
Cervantes understood the limited nature of his protagonist's creative talent. Don Quixote's flair for oratory is revealed when he paraphrases the words of others: the flowery beginning of his own biography, the speeches on the Golden Age and arms and letters, the story of the Knight of the Lake, and so forth. But although he is well versed in the plots of books and ready to defend their historicity, the Don Quixote of Part I is not disposed to discuss writing. The difference between his debates with the priest and barber alluded to in I, 1 and the scrutiny of his library in I, 6 is that in the former the discussion centers on the heroes of the books whereas in the latter the examination extends to the judgment of the authors and their way of writing. Don Quixote is asleep and therefore not present to defend his collection, for he would have dealt with the books' characters, whereas the priest and barber concern themselves with verisimilitude, humor, decorum, style, and other matters related to writing. For the same reason, Don Quixote sleeps during the reading of the Curioso impertinence (a piece of imaginative literature the plausibility of which is placed in doubt by the priest), and fades into oblivion during the narration of the captive's tale (a true history of heroism). In between the totally imagined tale and the historical narrative lies the romance. The Curioso is exemplary fiction: It is not supposed to be taken literally, as the priest's reservation makes clear, but its plot is to
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be enjoyed and its moral is to be appreciated. The captive's narrative is
history: It is to be believed (its protagonist is present to narrate it).
But the romances have been the problematic genre from the start: They are
fiction presented as history.
Don Quixote sleeps through the purely imaginative and avoids the truly heroic because the former is irrelevant to his vital interests and the latter is prosaic. Unlike other listeners, he does not comment on how well a tale is told, for that would be to treat the history as though it were literature, and it is his bent to see matters the other way around. But in contrast with the wholly imaginative (which implies a creative writer) and the purely historical (which implies original and not imitated behavior), Don Quixote is at ease with the romances, for they afford him the opportunity to continue their chivalric world. Since he is unable to write sequels, he enacts them. He cannot create or even figuratively write his adventures but must follow Rocinante's lead and then envisage what comes into his field of vision in accordance with a script written by others, that is, by the authors of the books he read.
As suggested earlier, there are others who try to write in Don Quixote. The Canon of Toledo has already written some one hundred pages of a romance. Whatever his (or Cervantes') purpose, the fact remains that in the context of the 1605 Quixote in which he appears, we must see this as an uncompleted task. He too has failed to write. Ginés de Pasamonte is a failed writer because of the picaresque genre that he embodies. His well-known remark that his autobiography cannot be completed so long as his life has not reached its end must, again in the context of the 1605 Quixote, be recognized as a failure of the writer, for by definition the book cannot reach its readers. Grisóstomo's poems are, with a few exceptions, burned. Cardenio's poems and letters, although read by Don Quixote (and even here the narrator makes the point that Don Quixote could read only some of them), also do not reach their intended reader; indeed, the sonnet is pointedly identified as a rough draft (como en borrador [I, 23]) and had been left to rot in a suitcase.
Let us now move forward a decade. As I have already noted, the prologue to the 1615 Quixote reveals a more confident author. This is a well-known fact. But once again, I should like to focus on the matter of writing. Not only does the prologue address readers encompassing the range from illustrious to plebeian, but these readers are not described as idle. This detail assumes importance when we recall that the protagonist was idle most of the year (I, 1); that the
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priest defines the romances to be the product of ingenios ociosos
(I, 32); and that the canon admits to having read chivalric romances
llevado de un ocioso y falso gusto (I, 47). In 1605 Cervantes
was addressing readers of the romances. In 1615 he addresses readers of the
1605 Don Quixote who are awaiting the legitimate Part II, that is,
the enormous readership that is eager to see how the spurious Avellaneda
version will be treated by the authentic one. Despite his anger, Cervantes
reveals himself to be a writer of
Don Quixote no longer is represented as a failed writer. It is not my purpose in this essay to discuss Don Quixote's role in Part II; I do wish to point out that the depiction of a writer who cannot put words on paper or who cannot find a reader is not germane to the 1615 volume. Even the niece, who in I, 6 had worried that Don Quixote might become a poet, laments in the corresponding chapter of Part II that he indeed is one (II, 6). (The fact that her uncle was quoting Garcilaso adds a humorous touch, but the apparent realization of what in Part I was only a potentiality should not pass unobserved.) In point of fact, Don Quixote does deal with writing in Part II. He discusses the essence of poetry and advises the young poet Don Lorenzo de Miranda. We note as well that Don Lorenzo recites his poetic efforts to Don Quixote, which is to say that in effect his poetry is read. Moreover, in Part II Don Quixote himself writes. He writes letters to Governor Sancho Panza and they are read. He sings a romance that, the text tells us, él mismo aquel día había compuesto (II, 46). Even Sancho and Teresa Panza compose letters (though they require the services of a scribe), which evoke both admiratio and laughter (II, 52).
Ginés de Pasamonte no longer is portrayed as the writer of the inconclusive Vida de Ginés de Pasamonte. In Part II we are told that his book has been completed: . . . sus infinitas bellaquerías y delitos, que fueron tantos y tales, que él mismo compuso un gran volumen contándolos (II, 27). We are not given any further details of this volume and, although the contents clearly are of the kind one is accustomed to find in picaresque works, the earlier problem of the book's incomplete status has evidently been resolved.
In the prologue to the Novelas ejemplares of 1613 Cervantes speaks of the Persiles as a book que se atreve a competir con Heliodoro.15
note 9 above.
15 Ed. cit., p. 2.
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Armed with hindsight we may now perceive in the 1605 characterization of
the canon not merely a spokesman for some literary precepts (to a large extent
derived from El Pinciano) espoused by Cervantes, but the representation of
the tentative probings of Cervantes who, though he had his theoretical house
in order, had not yet managed to go beyond the canon's one hundred pages
of writing such an epic.
It is not my intention to imply that the instances in Part II in which people write share any intrinsic relationship to the matter of writing well. It is certainly not a question of belles lettres, as the books of the self-professed humanist in II, 24 make clear. What stands out is the simple fact that in Part II so many characters do write. The significance of this fact lies in the contrast it creates with the frustrated, aborted, or distorted efforts of Part I. Indeed, one of the ways in which the two parts may be contrasted is by noting how many characters of Part II bring forth their compositions, whatever their merit: from the humanist and his accumulation of worthless facts to the poetic efforts of Don Lorenzo (the former in books, the latter prepared for literary competitions); from the correspondence between Don Quixote and Sancho and between Sancho and Teresa to the letters between Teresa and the duchess; from the intrusions of the translator (who wishes to bring out his own version by censoring the Arabic manuscript) to the rewriting of Avellaneda's book by the interpolation of a character from that volume into the Cervantine text; finally, perhaps the most important of all: the reality of the publication of Part I. In point of fact, Part II opens with the anecdote of the madman who led the archbishop to believe in the probability of his recovered sanity because of the muchos billetes concertados y discretos he wrote (II, 1). I venture to say that had the anecdote been included in Part I, the letters would have been scrawled on the cell's walls or in some other fashion would have failed to reach their intended reader. Like the protagonist of the novel, the central character of the anecdote continues to entertain his illusions and nonetheless displays his gift of eloquence. The barber relates the anecdote to illustrate the reverse, of course: He implies that sensible language may conceal irrational conduct, for the man's subsequent behavior betrays his continued madness, but the point that it was coherent writing that suggested the sanity of a madman should not go unobserved.
The concern for the perils of publishing is still with Cervantes in 1615. Don Quixote summarizes the points we have noted in previous works:
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. . . para componer historias y libros, de cualquier suerte que sean, es menester un gran juicio y un maduro entendimiento. Decir gracias y escribir donaires es de grandes ingenios . . . La historia es como cosa sagrada . . . . pero no obstante esto, hay algunos que así componen y arrojan libros de sí como si fuesen buñuelos (II, 3).
Sansón Carrasco replies with a favorite Cervantine maxim (though not
original with Cervantes): No hay libro tan malo . . . que
no tenga algo bueno. But Don Quixote continues: No hay duda en
eso . . . pero muchas veces acontece que los que tenían
méritamente granjeada y alcanzada gran fama por sus escritos, en
dándolos a la estampa la perdieron del todo, o la menoscabaron en
algo. Sansón explains: La causa deso es . . .
que como las obras impresas se miran despacio, fácilmente se veen
sus faltas, y tanto más se escudriñan cuanto es mayor la fama
del que las compuso. Sansón goes on to ascribe this attitude
to those who have never given their own works to be published and who, envious
of the great poets and historians, derive a special pleasure from their criticism
of others' works. He too voices Cervantes' recurrent anxiety:
. . . digo que es grandísimo el riesgo a que se pone
el que imprime un libro, siendo de toda imposibilidad imposible componerle
tal, que satisfaga y contente a todos los que le leyeren (II, 3).
The exchange between Don Quixote and Sansón Carrasco is more than a restatement of matters raised in earlier works. We do see that the question of publishing and the attendant vulnerability to criticism and its effect on the writer's reputation are matters that concern Cervantes throughout his life. It is interesting to note in passing that here the problem is shared by writers of history and poetry, the Aristotelian distinction between the two having been articulated only moments earlier in the same conversation. And it is of more than passing interest to note that this discussion leads up to the revelation of the 1605 Quixote's popularity: Despite certain faults of the author, says Sansón, the number of people who have enjoyed the book is infinite. Now, although this recent graduate of Salamanca has just compared this readership with the infinite number of fools in the world, it is this very group the vulgo that has accepted the book despite its shortcomings. Whatever that says about the readers, about their understanding of Cervantes' purpose, or even of the book itself, the fact remains that at long last Cervantes is able to say that he has weathered the test of publication. Not only is his book popular (some twelve thousand copies are in print, Sansón says in this chapter), but
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in the face of the danger of writing sequels (discussed in II, 4), we the
readers are now participating in the experience of Part II.
In his first major work, La Galatea, Cervantes believed himself to be daring just by publishing his writing. Two decades later, he betrays in the first Quixote that the fear of not having friendly readers, or readers at all, in short, of not communicating, is very much with him. Even his own work, La Galatea, is criticized for its inconclusiveness: propone algo, y no concluye nada (I, 6). By 1612 (when the text of the Viaje del Parnaso, published two years later, was finished), he is confident of his successes, stressing his ingenio, his invención, and his having opened the way. In 1613 he can boast of daring not just to publish his works but to outdo Heliodorus. Small wonder, then, that in the 1615 Quixote there are no timid remarks in the prologue and no doubts about the distinction between the role of the protagonist and that of the historian's pen.16
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16 Para mí sola nació don Quijote, y yo para él; él supo obrar y yo escribir (II, 74).
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|Fred Jehle firstname.lastname@example.org||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|