From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 10.2 (1990): 101-02.
Copyright © 1990, The Cervantes Society of America


Daniel Eisenberg, ed. Las Semanas del jardín de Miguel de Cervantes. Salamanca: Diputación de Salamanca, 1988. 194 pp.

     Cervantes mentions three works that he contemplated publishing but apparently did not complete: Bernardo, the second part of La Galatea, and Semanas del jardín. Eisenberg has previously dealt with the Bernardo (ACerv 21 and A Study of Don Quixote, ch. 2). Here he turns his attention to a fragment generally known as the Diálogo entre Cilenia y Selanio, sobre la vida del campo, contending that it is the extant portion of Semanas del jardín.
     An uncommon and most welcome feature of this handsomely printed edition is the inclusion of a facsimile of the manuscript, to accompany the transcription. The preliminary study, consisting of twenty-four short chapters, is quite thorough and insightful, not only with regard to the fragment under scrutiny but also concerning Cervantes's other works. The volume is available through the Diputación, Departamento de Cultura, C/Felipe Espino, 1, 37001 Salamanca. The price is not indicated.
     Eisenberg initially justifies the attribution in these terms: “Nuestro atrevimiento se debe a la hermosura y al interés ideológico que hallamos en el texto, a que estamos convencidos de que nadie, excepto Cervantes, pudo haberlo escrito, y a que, aunque no sea su autor, la mera posibilidad merece el examen que no ha tenido” (14). He proceeds to provide a history of the fragment (first published by Adolfo de Castro in 1874), goes on to reject certain suspect criteria for attribution of texts (e.g., style), and then elaborates his own preferred method, “el más vetusto y tradicional de todos: los paralelos ideológicos, apoyados, según el consejo de Bonilla, en las palabras con que se expresan estas ideas” (33). From chapter 5 onward, then, the obvious similarities to the approach of Américo Castro in El pensamiento de Cervantes are apparently by design.
     The problems endemic to this method are several. Three will serve to suggest that it betrays the best intentions of its advocate. First, in chapter 6, on “La Verdad,” the assertion is made that “en ningún autor español encontramos defensa más apasionada de la verdad que en Cervantes” (37), followed by a series of quotations from various works that make reference to truth in seemingly positive ways. Among these is the highly ironic “ninguna [historia] es mala como sea verdadera” (DQ I, 9), however. The statement is ironic only in context, of course —one must read the following


102 JAMES A. PARR Cervantes

paragraph of I, 9— but the point is that the acceptance at face value of any and all quotations culled from whatever source does not take tone or context into account. Nor does it consider who is speaking and with what relative authority. The rifling of texts for parallel pronouncements is a dubious procedure in general, but it becomes especially hazardous when dealing with one of the supreme ironists of all time.
     Second, in chapter 8, on “El Gobierno,” we find: “Que Cervantes no aprobó la conducta de Felipe II lo parecen indicar las palabras siguientes de Mauricio en el Persiles . . .” (45 ). It is not necessary to reproduce the embedded quotation. A similar instance occurs on p. 131, where three quotes from La Galatea, with a few others from other works, supposedly demonstrate that memory “para Cervantes era una carga, acordando las alegrías perdidas.” We place ourselves on very uncertain ground indeed when we attribute statements of characters in fiction to their historical author.
     Third, the evidence sifted from other texts is necessarily selective. In chapter 10, “Los Arboles” (“El autor en que se hallan mayores y más sentidas referencias a los árboles es Cervantes” [62]), no mention is made of the frivolous remark that trees seem invariably to have feet rather than hands (DQ II, 28), while a potentially negative aspect, the fact that trees may also serve as natural gallows, is buried in a lengthy footnote (65). The claim, “Quien conoce las obras de Cervantes no se extrañará de que Selanio encuentre recreación para su espíritu y suspensión de sus males ‘con el ruido del movimiento que el aire hace, sacudiendo las hojas de los árboles’ (13:27-29);” would find little support in Don Quijote I, 20: “. . . acertaron a entrar entre unos árboles altos, cuyas hojas . . . hacían un temeroso y manso ruido; de manera que la soledad, el sitio, la escuridad, el ruido del agua con el susurro de las hojas, todo causaba horror y espanto . . .” The quotations chosen from other works do not always do justice to the complexity of the issues, in other words.
     The edition displays impressive erudition, but no amount of citation and footnoting can compensate for the inherent shortcomings of the method itself. In the final analysis, acceptance of this fragment into the Cervantine canon requires an act of faith. Some may be willing to take that leap; others may not.

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