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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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DON QUIXOTE IN DON QUIXOTE Don Quixote in Don Quixote In the prologue to the First Part Cervantes lets his readers glimpse, as we have seen, his goals – and his concerns – regarding the novel. But it is in the second part, when he has the story appear within the story itself, that he creates a vehicle for an extensive commentary in dia- logue on the work. Now the reflections on the 1605 Quixote will not be in the narrating voice of the author but in the words spoken by the characters – Don Quixote, Sancho, and someone new, Sansón Carrasco, who brings news of the publication. At the beginning of the Second Part, through them the First Part becomes the central topic in a long and pleasant conversation spread out over several chapters. Bringing the 1605 Quixote into the sequel is an ingenious procedure (and completely unprecedented) that not only allows Cervantes to make original comments on the published text but also turns Don Quixote and Sancho into literary figures re- cognizable to all who have read the book. As a consequence the characters who encounter them in Part 2 react accordingly. Since the duke and the duchess already know about Don Quixote’s obsessions, and so are eager to prepare practical jokes tailored to his chivalric ravings, the story can be enriched with a good number of episodes. When Cervantes includes an earlier work of fiction in the story, a work known both to real readers and the ones who...

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