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Cervantes on «Don Quixote»

Translation from Spanish by Clark Colahan- Foreword by Anthony Close


Emilio Martinez Mata

Commentary on Don Quixote is as universal as affirmations of the novel’s importance, yet until now no study has examined what Cervantes said about it. In the prologue to the first half of the work (1605) the self-conscious author, in a tongue-in-cheek dialogue with the reader and an unconventional friend, makes a good number of comments on his own book. In the opening chapters of Part 2 (1615), the same sort of witty evaluation continues with remarks by Sancho Panza, Sansón Carrasco and Don Quixote in a lively and extended conversation focused on what has been said about Part 1 since its publication and how the characters feel about those readings. The present study carefully examines and compares these and other self-reflective passages to clarify the work’s successes and failures as interpreted by a privileged reader – the author himself.


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Introduction 11


Introduction The overwhelming number of studies on Don Quixote, the most influ- ential literary work of all time, might well discourage any attempt to bring forward a new approach to it. Américo Castro, whose 1925 book El pensamiento de Cervantes was fundamental to the development of Cervantine scholarship as we know it today, wrote there that in the general view “todo, o por lo menos casi todo, ha sido ya dicho acerca de Cervantes,” [everything, or at least almost everything, has already been said about Cervantes]1. If that statement could be made more than eighty years ago, what are we to think today, after the pub- lication of many more insightful critical works on Cervantes’ novel? Of course a good part of the seemingly countless studies do take into account, to a greater or lesser extent, what Cervantes says about his own intentions, but it seems that no one has thought about the novel from that perspective alone. In other words, there is no study that analyzes and places in their original context Cervantes’ comments about his own work, ideas expressed through the several narrating voices that he assumes and his characters. The locations in the text where this commentary is especially prominent are the prologue to the First Part, that is, the 1605 Don Quixote, and the first chapters of the Second, the 1615 Don Quixote. Cervantes’ comments take in many of the key aspects of the work: the playful attribution of the narrative to fictional authors,...

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