From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
4.1 (1984): 84-86.
Copyright © 1984, The Cervantes Society of America
R. M. Flores. Sancho Panza Through Three Hundred Seventy-five Years
of Continuations, Imitations, and Criticism, 1605-1980. Newark, Del.:
Juan de la CuestaHispanic Monographs, 1982. x + 233 pp.
This book's long title summarizes one of the
author's two purposes. In chapters 1-4 Flores discusses the critical and
literary fortunes and misfortunes of Sancho Panza from the seventeenth century
through the contemporary period. Chapter 5 and 34 appendixes are devoted
to the Sancho presented in Cervantes' novel. Both of these purposes are
accomplished, but not adequately enough; the book is good in some ways, but
is flawed and fails at least as often as it succeeds.
The sections on Sancho criticism since 1605, especially the lengthy discussion of twentieth-century scholarship, are disorderly and incomplete; some noteworthy studies listed in the bibliography are not included in the text at all or are dismissed with a passing comment. Rather than give an objective summary of each critic's contribution, Flores measures each one by his own narrow reading of the real Sancho (on which more later). Thus, for example, the carnivalesque readings by J. M. Pelorson, A. Redondo and M. Durán are called far-fetched and considered a betrayal of the evolution of centuries of criticism (pp. 81-82). An objective, descriptive bibliography would have been far more useful.
The discussions of Sancho Panza figures in 375 years of literature are marred by a lack of perspective, inconsistencies and some serious omission. After discussing scores of Sanchos (the great majority of them justly relegated to oblivion) in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature, Flores is able to locate only two comparable characters in the nineteenth century (Dickens' Sam Weller and Montalvo's Sancho Panza) and only one good one in the twentieth century (Tolkein's Sam Gamgee). Other twentieth-century Sanchos are not to Flores' liking: the protagonist in Jean Camp's Sancho is impossible to accept; José Larraz's novel ¡Don Quijancho, maestro! is ill-conceived and worthless; John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman provides another false scent, etc. (p. 105).
The Sancho-inspired characters overlooked by Flores include the protagonist of Alphonse Daudet's once famous and influential Tartarin de Tarascon (a character who fuses Don Quijote's spirit and Sancho Panza's body), Romilayu in Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, Arsenii in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 and others. Disappointing also is Flores' lack of discussion of the Manchegan squire in modern Hispanic
poetry. It is absurd to cite three minor Brazilian poems about Sancho (as
Flores does, p. 103) and ignore works like Jorge Guillén's
Dimisión de Sancho and Gabriel Celaya's A Sancho
If Flores is right, there is no modern Spanish or Spanish American novel (Juan Montalvo's semi-novelistic Capítulos que se le olvidaron a Cervantes, so praised by Flores, hardly counts) that contains an important Sancho Panza figure. Why is there no such character in the works of novelists like Pereda, Galdós, Baroja, or Unamuno? With the dozens (or even hundreds) of Don Quijotes in modern literature, why are there so few Sanchos, especially in the Hispanic world where the latter is so often considered a symbol of the common man? It is too bad that Flores never pauses to explain Sancho's poor literary progeny, to contemplate the Sanchos that ought to exist but do not.
Chapter 5, entitled Cervantes's Sancho, is based on the material provided in 34 appendixes, which consist of brief excerpts from Don Quijote, and are arranged thematically, covering subjects that range from the squire's Occupation and Activities and Means and Possessions through his Compassion and Loquacity. These appendixes are simultaneously one of the strengths of the book and one of its problematic areas. For the prudent and experienced cervantista these lists can provide insights and assist in locating passages and linking themes and structural devices in the novel. The less cautious or less experienced reader, however, who might tend to use the appendixes uncritically could be misled, for the categories are not provided by Cervantes, but rather by Flores, who often seems to have his own preconceived notion of what to look for in the text. Furthermore, since the brief quotations are of necessity out of context, the uncritical reader may not always realize the ironic, satirical or referential setting that should color many of the citations.
Because Flores insists that his is the only legitimate reading of the text, and since (as is evident in the earlier chapters on criticism and literature) that reading denies the validity of many other critical approaches, chapter 5 might more accurately be called Flores' Sancho. Flores insists, for example, that the cumulative evidence of his appendixes demolishes the theory of a different Sancho in each of the two parts of the novel (p. 134). The same evidence also exposes as a critical mirage the classic since Madariaga in 1926 theory of the Quixotification of the squire (p. 139). Rather, according to Flores, Sancho never changes or evolves in any way in the novel, since he is already whole from the start (p. 144). Clearly Cervantes' creation is not two radically different characters in the two parts of the novel (though Flores sometimes reduces subtle critical arguments to such simplistic terms in order to demolish them more easily), and clearly the Sanchification-Quixotification antithesis has become a cliché that simplifies a complex process. But the alternative of an unchanging Sancho presented by Flores is, at least for me, equally unattractive. Some moderation on Flores' part might have allowed him to perceive a character
who, while a mature, complex human being from the start of the novel, does
experience a process of learning and growth during his association with Don
In spite of the subjectivity, dogmatism and intolerance that characterizes much of the presentation of Flores' Sancho, there are some very keen pages of analysis in this final chapter. Perhaps he overstates his case somewhat when discussing the squire's role in the scene with the priest and barber in I, 26, or in the scene following the ride on Clavileño in II, 41 (pp. 122-28), but Flores is at his best when discussing subtleties of Sancho's character.
Sancho Panza Through . . . is a very uneven book, but a useful contribution to Cervantine studies. It is a book that, in spite of its shortcomings, future students of the genial squire will have to take into consideration.
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