From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 7.2 (1987): 100-04.
Copyright © 1987, The Cervantes Society of America


[In the last number (on pp. 75-78) this review this review was published after I had sent our printer some corrections just before it went to press. Instead of placing the corrections where they should have been put, the printer placed them at the beginning of the review. The result made the review start out in the middle, and then duplicate what had just been said. We didn't know what had happened until the number was printed, bound and distributed. My apologies to Professors Damiani and Forbes Gerhard. T.L.]

Miguel de Cervantes: Novelas ejemplares. Critical edition, preliminary study, and notes by Julio Rodríguez-Luis. Madrid: Taurus, 1985. 2 vols.

Novedad y ejemplo de las Novelas de Cervantes. By Julio Rodríguez-Luis. Madrid: Porrúa-Turanzas, Vol. I, 1980; Vol II, 1984.

     In his prefatory remarks, Professor Rodríguez-Luis refers to Novedad y ejemplo as the “remate y compendio” of years of study. Taken together, his two publications could as well be described as a “vademecum” of materials addressing virtually all aspects of scholarship relating to the Novelas ejemplares —textual, critical, historical, cultural, bibliographical, and biographical. The carefully edited and annotated text of the Novelas which Rodríguez-Luis presents is accompanied by an illuminating preliminary study; a bibliography of editions and critical studies; the principal variants of the manuscript versions of Rinconete y Cortadillo and El celoso extremeño which preceded the 1613 edition of the Novelas; a glossary; and a chronological table at the end of Volume II which includes biographical data on Cervantes, publication dates of major literary works, and important historical and cultural events.
     The Rodríguez-Luis text of the Novelas is based upon Schevill and Bonilla, read in conjunction with the princeps, the Madrid 1614 edition, and the edition by Avalle-Arce. Although the entire text could benefit from a thorough proofreading, Professor Rodríguez-Luis exercises moderation in modernizing orthography, accentuation, and morphology, limiting changes to the minimum required to facilitate an unencumbered reading. Changes which appear in the more extensively modernized edition by Harry Sieber, for example, are not made in Rodríguez-Luis. The notes, which are admittedly based on Schevill and Bonilla and other earlier editions, reveal Rodríguez-Luis's considerable editorial ability to synthesize and evaluate a broad range of existing scholarship, and even the reader with limited scholarly background will find that the notes enrich and enliven the text without distracting from it. Interpretive statements and frequent cross-references


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are excluded from the notes, which elucidate in concise form the local or particular detail which abounds in Cervantes —particularities of geography and historical circumstance; identities of historical personages; and details relating to local customs, folklore, clothing, monetary systems, dance forms, etc. Literary and classical references are clarified, as well as popular, idiomatic, or specialized linguistic usages. The glossary, which follows the text and precedes the notes, includes rare terms which do not appear in a good dictionary. While Rodríguez-Luis's intent in including a glossary is to separate obvious “dictionary items” from items requiring lengthier comment, it would perhaps be more convenient for the reader to consult one integrated listing rather than two, particularly since the variant readings follow in a third appendix.
     In the preliminary study and in Novedad y ejemplo, the role traditionally ascribed to the Quijote in the historical development of the modern novel is seen as exercised in at least equal measure by the Novelas ejemplares. According to Rodríguez-Luis and others —Hainsworth, for example— the history of the modern novel is primarily the history of short fictional forms. Indeed, it is in the Prologue to the Novelas ejemplares that Cervantes establishes his claim as innovator: “Yo soy el primero que he novelado en lengua castellana . . . .” During a period when serious writers of fiction still aspired to heroic and epic genres governed by traditional prescriptions, conventionalized situations, idealized heroes, and formalized rhetoric, the Novelas focus upon the contemporary and the particular, the mundane, and the “low” —in other words, the substance of the Novelas is the “material humano” of everyday reality (Novedad y ejemplo, II, 104) which prepare the way for the development of modern realism.
     Rodríguez-Luis also comments upon the evolution of the term “novela” and includes a discussion of the Novelas from the point of view of Cervantes' contemporaries. In particular, the evidence of Sorel and other French writers who recognize the significance of Cervantes' innovations is an excellent reinforcement of what is meant by “modernity” during a period distinct from our own. A comparison of Cervantes and the Italian novellieri throws further light upon the evolution of concepts of the novel. Like Bandello, Cervantes is innovative in abandoning the external framework technique in favor of creating independent Novelas, each of which is essentially an original or direct “imitation of reality.” Although Cervantes insists upon the commonplace adjective, “ejemplares,” in the title of his Novelas, in each case he subordinates moral lesson to the end of entertainment or enjoyment. In addition, “ejemplo” in Cervantes is not merely a traditional statement of moral precept, but an illustration of virtue in the broader sense of positive human qualities —generosity, courage, “discreción,” fidelity, etc., which are ultimately rewarded. Most importantly, the persuasiveness of “ejemplo” in Cervantes results from the author's “fidelidad a la realidad de los caracteres” (Novedad y ejemplo, II, 108) and from his inventive and imaginative capacities. Cervantes sees himself as providing “example” precisely as novelist, and his “arte de novelar” consists of his


ability to bring the improbable under artistic control and to produce through illusion or “fiction” a clearer understanding of reality or fact. Consequently, realism in Cervantes is never synonymous with literal representation of reality, and all the Novelas ejemplares exceed the limits of strict probability.
     Obviously, “ejemplaridad” in Cervantes is closely linked with realism —what Rodríguez-Luis terms “detallismo,” or “el absorbente interés de Cervantes en toda la materia de sus narraciones, la cual siente con nueva inmediatez . . .” (Novedad y ejemplo, II, 112). It is Cervantes' representation of detail as worthy of attention in itself rather than as merely the vehicle of an “ejemplo” which Rodríguez-Luis defines as “el más obvio vehículo de su renovación literaria, el que, a través del acercamiento de la perspectiva narrativa a su objeto, lo va a conducir a la creación de verdaderos personajes” (Novedad y ejemplo, II, p. 113). Ultimately, Cervantes' creation of “living” characters whose intimate motives become the basis of action and plot, as well as his intervention as narrator who describes what is happening within his characters, separates Cervantes from his predecessors and from many of his immediate successors. Realism, use of detail, character development, psychological motivation of plot, and the incorporation of narrator into the “fiction” are all part of the innovative process in Cervantes. The sum total of these qualities, according to Rodríguez-Luis, “da como resultado la modernidad de las Novelas ejemplares o el ‘nuevo camino’ que señala su autor” (Novedad y ejemplo, II, 117).
     It is these internal narrative structures which Rodríguez-Luis examines in Novedad y ejemplo. Professor Rodríguez-Luis is careful to acknowledge the significance of the realist-idealist trend in scholarship, but his thesis makes good sense: elements of realism and idealism are present in all the novelas, and groupings of the Novelas based on “global differences” or on external categories such as “pensamiento” or “idealismo” should be abandoned in favor of a search for similarities among the Novelas based on structural elements fundamental in the evolution of the modern novel.
     Variations in plot type and character development, in particular, yield four distinct groupings within the Novelas. The Novelas of Group I, which includes El amante liberal, La española inglesa, La fuerza de la sangre, Las dos doncellas, and La Señora Cornelia, are the novels of amorous intrigue and adventure, complication, and rapid action featuring ideal romantic heroes and beautiful and virtuous heroines dishonored or threatened by violence. Even in these Novelas, which are the most “estilizadas” or “conventionalized,” Cervantes demonstrates originality as a master of intrigue in his deftly unified and integrated plots, in which all details function to produce an effect of verisimilitude. Most strikingly, the characters in these Novelas do not speak, act, or “give example” from within a framework of “external” historical or mythological allusions, classical or didactic references, or moralizing and pseudo-philosophical commentaries. They speak and feel, suffer, rejoice, weep and laugh with the intensity and intimacy of the universal human voice, as in the scene where Isabela and her real parents recognize each

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other in La española inglesa or when Leocadia discovers her pregnancy in La fuerza de la sangre.
     Rodríguez-Luis singles out similar qualities in the remainder of the Novelas. In La gitanilla and La ilustre fregona, which form Group II, a single central character is presented within a series of episodes which replace intrigue and adventure. Rodríguez-Luis illustrates Cervantes' ability to “approximate reality” and also to “idealize” it in these Novelas, as in La gitanilla, where realistic descriptions of gypsy customs are fused with a quasi-Arcadian or semi-bucolic vision of gypsy life. Preciosa, who remains a unique model of “modern” techniques in character portrayal, is also the center and “ejemplo” of idealized love, virtue, and “discreción.” In the end the “gypsy” in Preciosa disappears and her consummate merits are “rewarded” by discovery of her noble origins. Costanza, in La ilustre fregona, shares the idealized qualities of Preciosa and is similarly portrayed against a lively realistic “cuadro de vida,” in this case picaresque. Like Preciosa, Costanza is rewarded by discovery of her aristocratic origins, through which she transcends her apparent social class and becomes worthy of her noble lover.
     In the “picaresque” Novelas of Group III, Rinconete y Cortadillo, El licenciado Vidriera, and El coloquio de los perros, plot structure becomes “spectacle,” or a rapid series of scenes unified by a central character or characters who act as observer-critics. Rodríguez-Luis characterizes these three Novelas as picaresque with a difference —the moral qualities of Rinconete and Cortadillo set them apart from the cofradía; the primary quest in El licenciado Vidriera is for knowledge; and the multiple perspectives, modern complexity, and vitality of El coloquio project this masterpiece beyond its picaresque framework. What other picaresque literature proposes as biography and social criticism Cervantes presents as fiction in El coloquio. The animal allegory, the ambiguity surrounding the “truth” of the central episodes, the character's consciousness of limitations upon their time and rationality, and Cipión's literary and moral commentary upon Berganza's narration make El coloquio a reflection upon “el modo de ser” of fictional literature. In El coloquio Cervantes demonstrates that the value of a work of fiction does not depend on its biographical or “factual” authority but upon the talent of the writer to create enjoyable —but plausible— “fiction.”
     El coloquio is presented as a text within the text of El casamiento engañoso, which is discussed in a fourth and somewhat miscellaneous grouping of Novelas, along with El celoso extremeño, El curioso impertinente, and La tía fingida. Rodríguez-Luis terms El casamiento and El celoso the “most realistic” of the Novelas ejemplares because of their themes and characterization, and because of the complexity of “ejemplaridad” in these two Novelas.
     Within the limitations of this review, it is difficult to give adequate illustrations of Rodríguez-Luis's great acquaintance with Cervantes. This is evident in the scope of research represented in the annotations in both studies, in the meticulously prepared text and ancillary materials, and in the “energy level” of the author's erudite but pleasing style of presentation.


Amid a wealth of detail, the reader never loses sight of the main point in Novedad y ejemplo: the relevance of the Novelas ejemplares, from a structural point of view, in the evolution of the novel. At the same time, the novelistic achievements and “modern complexity” of Cervantes surpass what is presented here. Other important elements, such as ambiguity, irony, antithesis, levels of narration and point of view, etc., function as structural principles in plot and character development and would perhaps yield other groupings of the Novelas. Rodríguez-Luis brings fresh insight to bear on many passages in the Novelas, but his overall analysis in Novedad y ejemplo is broad rather than close and sometimes dissolves into too much recounting of plot line. In addition, some comment or balancing of perspectives on the relationship of the Novelas ejemplares and the Quijote in the development of the novel seems necessary. However, these observations are not intended to detract from the merit of Rodríguez-Luis's study. It is refreshing and stimulating, and the author himself admits its limitations. Both Novedad y ejemplo and Rodríguez-Luis's edition of the Novelas belong on the shelves of anyone seriously interested in Cervantes. We will certainly consult our copies many times over.

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