From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
2.1 (1982): 96-98.
Copyright © 1982, The Cervantes Society of America
||ELIAS L. RIVERS|
OWARD MANCING HAS
gathered convincing textual evidence, in his
Cide Hamete Benengeli vs. Miguel
de Cervantes: The Metafictional Dialectic of Don Quijote
(Cervantes, I , 63-81), to show
how the Arabic historian becomes more significant in Part II as a character
providing comic relief and as a foil to Don Quijote. There is no doubt that
Cervantes, in his overall narrative strategy, realized the usefulness of
pitting one narrator against another, with a translator in between; this
dramatic multiplication of superimposed narrative voices, adjoining the voices
of other characters in dialogue, indeed creates a metafictional
dialectic that is richly confusing in its complex ambiguities. And
the implied reader1 delights in his own
simultaneous role as accomplice and victim of the author's illusionistic
In view of such complexity, I believe that Mancing makes a serious mistake in trying to oversimplify the situation from the outset by asserting (p. 64) that the yo of the Prologue to Part I and the author of the final, edited text are both identical with the person referred to on the title page where it says compuesto por Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and the first-person editor who
for example, Jane P. Tompkins, ed., Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism
to Post-Structuralism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,
appears occasionally in Part I. This problem is not so easily solved. In fact, Mancing returns to it on the following page (note 5) with these words:
It is the nature of the first-person fictional narrator to reveal his identity. When the narrator is not a character in the work or an identified fictional editor he is assumed to be the person whose name is on the book's cover. This does not, of course, mean that it is a literal truth that Cervantes had a friend with whom he carried on the conversation recorded in the prologue [. . .]. The Cervantes who edits and narrates Don Quijote may be fictionalized, but he most certainly is Cervantes . . . .
According to this, since the editor, who may be
fictionalized, did not identify himself with any other name, he
most certainly is Cervantes. It seems to me that the literary analyst
gains nothing by applying the same name Cervantes both to the
man of flesh and blood born in 1547 and to the traditional narrative voice,
or yo, which speaks to the reader in a phrase such as de
cuyo nombro no quiero acordarme. In fact, one might even say that it
is a natural impossibility for the first-person fictional narrator
to reveal his identity in any full sense. But I am not here proposing
ontological or metaphysical speculations; for purely practical reasons I
think it behooves us, as we analyze Don Quijote, to distinguish as
clearly as we can between author or writer, editor or primary narrator,
translator, and Arabic historian, just as we distinguish between author,
Don Quijote, and Sancho Panza, or between Don Ouijote and Don Quijote.
Not that the author himself always helps us to draw very clear distinctions. To write is to pose the problem of personal identity2;even in a private letter or in a diary the writer's voice seems often to speak of quand' era in parte altr' uom da quel ch'i'sono. Margit Frenk3 has recently shown how the yo of the prologue to the Lazarillo begins as the voice of the (anonymous) author and ends by transforming itself into the voice of the narrator Lázaro (whom the reader can often distinguish from the protagonist Lazarillo). Cervantes used in Don Quijote fundamental novelistic devices of this sort,
Inés Azar, Meaning, Intention and the Written Text: Anthony
Close's Approach to Don Quixote and its Critics, MLN,
96 (1981), 440-44, and Mary Louise Pratt, The Ideology of Speech-Act
Theory, Centrum, new series, I (1981), 5-18.
3 Lazarillo de Tormes. AutorNarradorPersonaje, in Romanica Europaen et Americana: Festschrift für Harri Meier (Bonn: Bouvier, 1980), ed. Hans Dieter Bork et al., pp. 185-92.
|98||ELIAS L. RIVERS||Cervantes|
some of which he had probably learned from reading the Lazarillo.
Nowhere is this lesson more evident than in his prefatory pages, prologues
and epilogues. One expects the author not to fictionalize himself in his
dedications, at least; but the dedication of Part I to the Duke of Béjar
is largely plagiarized from Fernando de Herrera, and in the dedication of
Part II to the Count of Lemos a fictionalized Cervantes engages in dialogue
with a fictitious envoy from China. (Even one of the ecclesiastical approbations
contains suspicious dialogue.4) At the beginning of the Prologue to Part
I, a fictionalized Cervantes encourages the implied reader to confuse Don
Quijote the character with Don Quijote the written text; the written
and typographic conventions available to Cervantes and his printer did not
permit or require the clear distinction that our conventions impose upon
us as twentieth-century writers and readers. And, in the epilogue to Part
II, when Cide Hamete addresses his pen, the reader can not be sure at exactly
what point the voice of the pen yields again to that of Cide Hamete, or even,
perhaps, to that of the primary
The question of identity, literary or otherwise, is not a peripheral one in Don Quijote. The alienation of the protagonist, as a reader who has merged his own identity with that of the knights whose adventures he has read about, is central to the novel itself. When Don Quijote uses the phrase (I, 5) yo sé quién soy, not to assert the conventional aristocratic identity of self which guarantees the word of a man of honor, but to fragment his own identity (y sé que puedo ser no sólo los que he dicho, sino todos los doce Pares de Francia, y aun todos los nueve de la Fama . . .), we can hear behind the scenes the voice, not of the narrator, but of the author Cervantes, suggesting through the rhetoric of fiction the problematic nature of human identity, especially the identity of a reader caught up by the written words of a work of fiction, as we are, at least in part, by Don Quijote.
|SUNY AT STONY BROOK|
Elias L. Rivers, On the Prefatory Pages of Don Quixote, Part
II, MLN, 75 (1960), 214-21.
5 According to John J. Allen, Don Quixote: Hero or Fool?, Part Two (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1979), p. 24, there is an almost imperceptible shift in mid-sentence to Cervantes addressing the reader. See also Ruth El Saffar's review article JHP, 4 (1980), 237-54, and Allen's response, pp. 255-56.
|Fred Jehle email@example.com||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|