Monday, April 14, 2014

Have you given much thought to the theme of money in DQ?

Rivka Galchen riffs on DQ:

[. . .]
"A certain well-read Spanish gentleman sets out as a knight errant and is surprised when an innkeeper asks him for money, and is later surprised again when his peasant-turned-squire presses for a salary. “I certainly should have specified a salary for you,” the well-read knight errant explains, “if I had found in any of the histories of the knights errant an example that would have revealed to me and shown me, by means of the smallest sign, what wages were for a month, or a year, but I have read all or most of their histories, and I do not recall reading that any knight errant ever specified a fixed salary for his squire.” And yet by the end of his perfectly quixotic life, on his deathbed, the gentleman repents his adventures and returns to being simply the man of some means that he formerly was, Alonso Quixano. He writes out his pragmatic will: cash to Sancho Panza, possessions to his long-suffering niece, and additional wages for his maid beyond what he owes her, so that she can buy herself a dress.
"Whereas Quixote was gallant, violent, delusional, charismatic and known for never paying his bills, Quixano is effectively kind; we might summarize “Don Quixote” as a new Damascene story of a man who, long blind to the reality of money, finally learns to see what Shakespeare termed, in one of his plays, the “visible god.” 
"It’s not a loving god, of course, only a mighty one, which may be why no enchanted reader can quite manage to celebrate Quixote’s return to reality."

How Has Fiction Handled the Theme of Money? by Rivka Galchen, NY Times, April 13, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

". . . from the first oak tree or oak tree I spot, I think I will break off another trunk. . ."


Here is a sentence from DQ chapter eight, which is anything but haphazard in its construction, but which appears to contradict the writer's mission: capture and sustain the reader's interest in the story:

Hete dicho esto, porque de la primera encina o roble que se me depare, pienso desgajar otro tronco, tal y tan bueno como aquél que me imagino, y pienso hacer con él tales hazañas, que tú te tengas por bien afortunado de haber merecido venir a verlas, y a ser testigo de cosas que apenas podrán ser creídas.
I am telling you all this because from the first oak tree or oak tree I spot, I think I will break off another trunk, just as good as that other one, I bet, and I think I will do such deeds with it that you will take yourself as blest at having been found worthy to come and behold them and to testify to such things as can hardly be believed.
Like all other sentences from Cervantes, this one has been created to meet the purpose of the writer. But:

". . . oak tree or oak tree . . ." ?? 


Why is Cervantes so deliberate in his use of two words for two different species of the same genus of tree? The reader is invited to make something of this.

What do you make of it? 

Through its descriptive arc, every good story captures and sustains the interest of the reader. This process is possible because the narrative arc is integral to our way in the world. 

We comprehend life as story: 

  • beginning
  • hubba hubba
  • end

Arc as matrix of meaning is as true of so called history-writing as of so called fiction. 

Cervantes' sentence cited above could never appear in a work of so called history, without a clarifying note.

Historians arrange and then presemt a sequence of events in a coherent arc, which is proposed as actual history but which inevitably leaves out some events or many; the excluded events are then consigned to another or no other arc. In their arc-making presentations historians leave out far more events than they include.

The fiction writer passes observations through imagination and then offers up the re-imagined events. The fictional narrative arc differs from the arc fashioned by the historian because of fiction's capricious insistence that facts are made to bow before the subtleties of language.

The writer of history must reckon with a severe limitation in the words available for use as well as a limitation in the meaning that can be assigned to a word. 

A writer of fiction confronts no such limitation.

A fiction-writer may deploy words so as to convey irony, empathy, subtly or ambiguity. Consider this sentence, which Alice Munro put in her story, To Reach Japan:
"She avoided anything useful like the plague." 
Such a sentence is no accident. The ambiguities the reader is invited to entertain are deliberate. Alice Munro is confusing matters so as to quicken the interest of the reader.

Cervantes is confident enough in his story-telling vision to move summarily from one technique to another - plot, character, dialogue. Cervantes risks the reader's possible distraction against his command of the tale he is spooling out in fragments. 

Oak or oak? I think Cervantes is deploying two forms of the same genus of tree to reinforce the dilusional state of DQ. 

No matter what contour reality takes, DQ counters with pretention to superior prowess. His dilusion bends reality into new shapes, which accommodate an ungrounded view of the world. 

Just as he cannot hear Sancho's questioning assertion, "What giants?" DQ cannot distinguish one oak tree from another. For him, there is no meaningful distinction to be made. 

En resolución, aquella noche la pasaron entre unos árboles, y del uno dellos desgajó don Quijote un ramo seco que casi le podía servir de lanza . . .
At length, that night was spent among some trees and from one of them Don Quijote broke off a dry branch which almost could serve as a lance . . .
A failure of perspective is a decent working definition of insanity. 
  • It makes no difference what variety of tree is available to provide a substitute lance to an insane knight-errant. 
  • A dry branch which is almost a lance is no lance.
DQ is caught inside a dangerous tragi-comic world of his own manufacture. 

Unable to find purchase where he can safely engage the world, DQ conjures a world which can be bent to accommodate the place where he thinks he stands. 

Unable to rearrange the world, he rearranges the reality which the reader observes and also occupies as a perch. 

We are like birds nesting on one of the tree limbs that DQ reaches out to break off. Just missed us, maybe.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Contending with Giants - Quijote's 600 Word Gift to Western Culture

Capítulo VIII. Del buen suceso que el valeroso Don Quijote tuvo en la espantable y jamas imaginada aventura de los molinos de viento, con otros sucesos dignos de felice recordación

Chapter VIII. The great turn of events which the valiant don Quijote had in the terrifying and never before imagined adventure with the windmills, together with other events worthy of remembrance

Here it is:

En esto, descubrieron treinta o cuarenta molinos de viento que hay en aquel campo; y, así como don Quijote los vio, dijo a su escudero:
La ventura va guiando nuestras cosas mejor de lo que acertáramos a desear, porque ves allí, amigo Sancho Panza, donde se descubren treinta, o pocos más, desaforados gigantes, con quien pienso hacer batalla y quitarles a todos las vidas, con cuyos despojos comenzaremos a enriquecer; que ésta es buena guerra, y es gran servicio de Dios quitar tan mala simiente de sobre la faz de la tierra.
¿Qué gigantes? -dijo Sancho Panza.
Aquellos que allí ves -respondió su amo- de los brazos largos, que los suelen tener algunos de casi dos leguas.
Mire vuestra merced -respondió Sancho- que aquellos que allí se parecen no son gigantes, sino molinos de viento, y lo que en ellos parecen brazos son las aspas, que, volteadas del viento, hacen andar la piedra del molino.
Bien parece -respondió don Quijote- que no estás cursado en esto de las aventuras: ellos son gigantes; y si tienes miedo, quítate de ahí, y ponte en oración en el espacio que yo voy a entrar con ellos en fiera y desigual batalla.
Y, diciendo esto, dio de espuelas a su caballo Rocinante, sin atender a las voces que su escudero Sancho le daba, advirtiéndole que, sin duda alguna, eran molinos de viento, y no gigantes, aquellos que iba a acometer. Pero él iba tan puesto en que eran gigantes, que ni oía las voces de su escudero Sancho ni echaba de ver, aunque estaba ya bien cerca, lo que eran; antes, iba diciendo en voces altas.
Non fuyades, cobardes y viles criaturas, que un solo caballero es el que os acomete .
Levantóse en esto un poco de viento y las grandes aspas comenzaron a moverse, lo cual visto por don Quijote, dijo: Pues aunque mováis más brazos que los del gigante Briareo me lo habéis de pagar Y, en diciendo esto, y encomendándose de todo corazón a su señora Dulcinea, pidiéndole que en tal trance le socorriese, bien cubierto de su rodela, con la lanza en el ristre , arremetió a todo el galope de Rocinante y embistió con el primero molino que estaba delante; y, dándole una lanzada en el aspa, la volvió el viento con tanta furia que hizo la lanza pedazos , llevándose tras sí al caballo y al caballero, que fue rodando muy maltrecho por el campo. Acudió Sancho Panza a socorrerle, a todo el correr de su asno, y cuando llegó halló que no se podía menear: tal fue el golpe que dio con él Rocinante.
¡Válame Dios! -dijo Sancho-. ¿No le dije yo a vuestra merced que mirase bien lo que hacía, que no eran sino molinos de viento, y no lo podía ignorar sino quien llevase otros tales en la cabeza.
Calla, amigo Sancho -respondió don Quijote-, que las cosas de la guerra, más que otras, están sujetas a continua mudanza; cuanto más que yo pienso y es así verdad, que aquel sabio Frestón , que me robó el aposento y los libros, ha vuelto estos gigantes en molinos por quitarme la gloria de su vencimiento: tal es la enemistad que me tiene; mas, al cabo al cabo, han de poder poco sus malas artes contra la bondad de mi espada.
Dios lo haga como puede -respondió Sancho Panza, y ayudándole a levantar, tornó a subir sobre Rocinante, que medio despaldado estaba.

and en ingles:

In this endeavor, they came upon thirty or forty wind mills in that field, and as soon as don Quijote saw them, he said to his squire: Providence is guiding our affairs better than what we thought to expect - just you look over there, Sancho Panza, my friend, where one sees thirty or a few more monstrous giants - with whom I think I will do battle and take the lives of them all, and with their spoils we shall begin to enrich ourselves, since this is righteous warfare, and a great service to God to sweep so evil a breed from the face of the earth.
"What giants? -  asked Sancho Panza."
Those! - that you see over there! - answered his better - with the big arms, some of which extend almost two leagues!
Look my Lord - answered Sancho - those things that seem to be giants are nothing but wind mills, and what looks like their arms are blades which spin in the wind, to turn the stone in the mill.
That’s what they appear to be - answered don Quijote - but you are not versed in these adventures; they are giants! If you are afraid, run on away and find a place to say your prayers because I am going to fight them in a fierce and unequal fight.
So saying, he spurred his horse Rocinante, paying no attention to the shouts of his squire Sancho Panza called out to him, warning him that without any doubt, these were windmills, not giants, these things he was going to charge. But he was so fixed on their being giants, he neither heard the shouts of his squire Sancho nor bothered to notice even though he was now really close, what they really were. Then he began to say in loud shouts: 
Don’t run away, cowards and vile creatures, because a single knight attacks you.
Then the wind picked up a little and the huge blades began to move, at which don Quijote said:
Even if you have more arms to move than the giant Briareo I will make you pay!
Saying this and entrusting himself with all his heart to his lady Dulcinea, asking her, trancelike, to protect him, well covered by his shield, with his lance poised, he charged Rocinante at full gallop, falling on the first mill before him, and impaled the lance into a blade, which the wind spun around with such fury it broke the lance into pieces, sweeping after it horse and rider, who went rolling downhill very battered on to the ground.

Sancho hurried to his aid as fast as his ass could run but when he arrived he saw he could not free him, so heavy was the fall he got with Rocinante. 
God help me! said Sancho. Didn’t I tell your worship, you need to watch what you are doing? that they were just windmills? that you have to watch out unless someone or something puts other notions in your head?

Simmer down, Sancho my friend, in war, more than in other affairs, matters are subject to change. Besides, I think and believe this is the truth, that the wizard Frestón, the one who stole my chamber and books has sent these giants as mills, to deny me the glory of his defeat such is the hatred he has for me; besides, before long, their dirty tricks have little power against my fine sword.
May God accomplish what he will, answered Sancho Panza.

He helped him stand up, turn around and climb up on Rocinante, since his shoulder was partly broken.


There it is. 605 words from Cervantes (and the same number in my translation, by the way). These are all the words Cervantes needed to create an iconic encounter between delusion and indifferent mechanisms, between the will to do good in the world and the actual injurious result caused by heedless pretension.

"Tilting at windmills" we say in English, a phrase credited to the New York Times in a political piece published in April, 1870: 
"They [Western Republicans] have not thus far had sufficient of an organization behind them to make their opposition to the Committee's bill anything more than tilting at windmills."
Can this be true? The first delicious appearance of this lyrical accounting of human folly - tilting at windmillsis in a newspaper reporter's commentary on local politics just after the US Civil War? 

The phrase ought to have come from higher on the rhetorical summit, from Dr. Johnson, or Dryden or Swift or Charles Lamb, or Whitman or Emily or Lincoln.


This shows the power and the breadth of Cervantes' fable of futility. 

But . . . since Cervantes makes DQ out to be insane, ought we hesitate to make too big a deal of this episode

Is a person no longer in his right mind a good model for how to get on in the world? 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dedication & Prologue - Parody with Bite

Having neglected to note Cervantes dedication & prologue, it's time to correct this omission.

DEDICATORIA AL DUQUE DE BÉJAR marqués de Gibraleón, conde de Benalcázar y Bañares. vizconde de La Puebla de Alcocer, señor de las villas de Capilla, Curiel y Burguillo.
TO THE DUKE OF BEJAR, Marquis of Gibraleón, Count of Benalcazar and Bañares, Viscount of La Puebla de Alcocer, Master of the towns of Capilla, Curiel y Burguillo.

The dedication as well as the prologue are laid down as parody but with bite.

The dedication to the Duke of Bejar, giving his string of titles, like tin cans tied to a bumper, are to be taken seriously as titles but not as conferring any degree of actual authority.

DQ was published in 1605, a century after Ferdinand y Isabel had deprived the regional aristocracy of Castile of any formal power in the government of the kingdom. (See the Cortes de Toledo of 1480 which restructured the Consejo Real - the Council of Castile.)

True, the still-titled potentates of Castile were of immediate, local importance, but primarily expressed in formalities and not actual in control over anything. The former serfs had been freed to leave or even sell the lands they worked and the towns had been invested by Isabel with their own enforceable administrative powers, thus transforming the ancient titles into hollow reminders of the actual powers that had been conveyed with the titles in the centuries prior to the late 1400s, when the two monarchs, had united Castile and the Kingdom of Aragon under their personal rule.

Cervantes uses the dedication to take a shot at publishing houses, with a slap at their "knowing" what kinds of books ought to be published - and certainly nothing like DQ which arrives, newborn:
. . . desnudo de aquel precioso ornamento de elegancia y erudición de que suelen andar vestidas las obras que se componen en las casas de los hombres que saben . . .  continiéndose en los límites de su ignorancia, suelen condenar con más rigor y menos justicia los trabajos ajenos.
. . . naked of elegance, that precious ornament, as well as erudition, which often adorn those works that are walking around, having been composed in the houses of men who know better . . . passing the limits of their own ignorance, frequently condemning with more rigor and less justice the efforts of others.

With total politeness, Cervantes pokes at the pretended influence of the Duke, 
. . . poniendo los ojos la prudencia de Vuestra Excelencia en mi buen deseo, fío que no desdeñará la cortedad de tan humilde servicio.
. . . attending with the eyes of prudence, your Excellency, my highest desire, believing that you will not disdain the brevity of my humble offering.
So the sweeping Spanish / universal parody begins.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Plot Thins, but that's OK

Capítulo VII. De la segunda salida de nuestro buen caballero don Quijote de la Mancha

Chapter Seven. About the second departure of our good Knight, 
don Quijote of the Stain


When it comes to action with Cervantes, the plot thins. This post suggests why.

We can summarize the action in Chapter seven in a sentence. DQ wakes up, looks in vain for his books and is mislead by his housekeeper and his niece about their disappearance; DQ then goes back to sleep, awakens, remains at home for a couple weeks, during which time, with promises of booty and prestige, he recruits Sancho Panza to accompany him; together, they make preparations for an adventure and slip away from the hacienda, without saying goodbye to anyone. 

Meanwhile, all of DQ's books have been burned, with the cruel, thieving conduct blamed on an invading devil.

The truncated space given to actions, I think, means that Cervantes is inviting the reader to reflect on human behavior. He lays a light touch on plot development, placing a subtle (that is, not explicit) emphasis on why people act as they do

Cervantes appears to believe that the why's of conduct are more complicated, more interesting than conduct, in itself. (I could be wrong, but so what? None other than Harold Bloom has this to say about DQ: "No critic's account of Cervantes's masterpiece agrees with, or even resembles, any other critic's impressions.")

Cervantes is about the motives which lie behind conduct. Conduct itself is, in Quijote, a prop, almost boring. How interesting is it, really, to watch a housekeeper collect up a pile of books and torch them?

The act of burning a book is simple, quick, final. Precious, irreplaceable combinations of words, bound in a defenseless package, are easily removed off the face of the earth. But the reasons for this conduct are far from simple. 

A motive is both intractable in revealing itself and subject to repetition. The rationale for an unkind act lends itself to horrible repetition. 

One hundred books burned requires one hundred wilful decisions.

Cervantes invites the reader to make what can be made of the resonances of the conduct, without much authorial hand-holding.

The poignancy of DQ's waking, looking in vain for his books, being lied to about their destruction . . . what are we to make of this? 

Here is what I make of it:

In few words, Cervantes has framed the torment of one with a mental illness, who is manipulated and abused by those closest to him. Confused and helpless to protect himself, the delusional DQ is condemned to the ministrations of false friends and superstitious caregivers. 

These who proclaim they are motivated only by the best interests of their victim, are in fact, merely looking for pretexts to indulge in self-congratulation. In Cervantes' telling, the repeated bad act repeatedly condemns gross prejudices and cherished, misapplied folk wisdom and religious platitude.

Chapter 7 is sprinkled with folk sayings, such as this one. (Did Cervantes invent these are overhear?)  

Muchos van por lana y vuelven trasquilados

'Many go for wool and return shorn'

A couple more dichos which are patently false in the context in which Cervantes places them:

lo que hoy se pierde, se gane mañana 

'what is lost today is won tomorrow'

- said by the prelate, who has just seen to the total destruction of DQ's library.

quizá quitando la causa cesaría el efecto

'removing the cause may end the effect, perhaps'

- applied to the walling off of the room, where DQ's books had been kept

Cervantes does drop in the occasional aphorism that is applicable, penning this one in homage to the lost books, victim of a literary inquisition:

pagan a las veces justos por pecadores 

'sometimes the just are punished instead of the sinners'

In the interests of confirming to themselves their pretended benevolence toward DQ, those in DQ's most intimate circle manipulate and abuse the helpless man, take his property, lie to him; they compound his delusions by adding to them.  

Cervantes handles book burning with wit. There is no harsh denunciation, only the deftly described humorous circumstance, the light touch of comedy.

Cervantes is trying to persuade and he knows this truth: 
if you entertain you are more likely to engage and enlarge your audience.  
In comedy lies the most potent persuasion, which is self-persuasion.  

Humor does not clobber the reader with a rhetorical club.

Cervantes' most important heirs in English are in that parade of subtle jokesters leading to Mark Twain and beyond.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Grand Scrutiny of Quijote's Library

Capítulo VI. Del donoso y grande escrutinio que el Cura y el Barbero hicieron en la librería de nuestro ingenioso hidalgo

Chapter VI. Concerning the entertaining and important scrutiny the curate and the barber conducted in the library of our ingenious noble.


While DQ slept, his 'friends' the priest and the barber discuss the pros and cons of burning his books, with rationales offered for consignment to the flames or for a reprieve for a title here and there. 

The escrutinio takes a while; DQ's library contained more than a hundred large volumes, along with a number of smaller ones. 

Here are the absurd reasons which the curate and the barber, the housekeeper and DQ's niece come up with to justify the burning of books. 

We even pass over the most obvious reason not to destroy the library - it does not belong to the destroyers.
- show no mercy, but look at the titles first
- the four volumes of Amadis de Gaula are the most influential of knight-errant books, so spare them or, as the barber put it: 
es el mejor de todos los libros que de este género se han compuesto, y así como a único en su arte se debe perdonar
- books written in imitation of Amadis ought to be burned, as imitations, as the priest intoned:
que no le ha de valer al hijo la bondad del padrethe merit of the father ought not be assigned to the son 
- two books by the same author? One might be truthful and the other a lie no, but we don't know which is which
en verdad que no sepa determinar cuál de los dos libros es más verdadero, o por decir mejor, menos mentiroso 
- stiff, dry style? Burn it! 
- a very old book? Burn it! 
- a book with the word "Cross" in the title? Trick of the devil, burn it! 
- books that may have influenced reputable Christian writers? Set them aside, so long as they are not translations 
- translations? - que habla en otra lengua que la suya, no le guardaré respeto alguno - to one who uses a language other than his own, I won't show the least respect.
- books about French affairs, set them aside, except titles disliked by the curate, as he put it: 
Digo, en efecto, que este libro y todos los que se hallaren que tratan destas cosas de Francia , se echen y depositen en un pozo seco, hasta que con más acuerdo se vea lo que se ha de hacer dellos, exceptuando a un Bernardo del Carpio , que anda por ahí y a otro llamado Roncesvalles , que éstos en llegando a mis manos, han de estar en las del ama, y dellas en las del fuego sin remisión alguna.
- the barber defers to the curate, as knowing which titles are true to the Faith
lo tuvo por bien y por cosa muy acertada, por entender que era el cura tan buen cristiano y tan amigo de la verdad, que no diría otra cosa por todas las del mundo.
- book with "olive" in the title is to be burned, but one by the same author but without "olive" and about England can be saved, since Alexander the Great saved a book similar to Homer, and besides, it is a witty book and a king of Portugal might be the author - 
Esa oliva se haga luego rajas y se queme, que aun no queden della las cenizas; y esa palma de Ingalaterra se guarde y se conserve como a cosa única, y se haga para ella otra caja como la que halló Alejandro en los despojos de Dario, que la diputó para guardar en ella las obras del poeta Homero . Este libro, señor compadre, tiene autoridad por dos cosas: la una porque él por sí es muy bueno, y la otra porque es fama que le compuso un discreto rey de Portugal.
- any titles we don't burn must be set aside, but not read by anyone -
compadre, en vuestra casa, mas no los dejéis leer a ninguno.
- what the Hell! Let's burn all the big volumes! as the barber instructs the housekeeper:  
mandó al ama que tomase todos los grandes y diese con ellos en el corral. 
         - wait, says the curate, here is a title I know.
¡Válame Dios!, dijo el cura dando una gran voz, ¿Que aquí esté Tirante el Blanco? Dádmele acá, compadre, que hago cuenta que he hallado en él un tesoro de contento y una mina de pasatiempos.
which has in it a big fight with a Mastiff plus witty sayings as well as commentary by a woman named Placerdemivida - my life's pleasure; we will hang on to this one. But 
que le echaran a galeras por todos los días de su vida. Llevadle a casa y leedle, y veréis que es verdad cuanto dél os he dicho. 
Enslave the author for writing it but take it home and read it and you will see what I mean -  
- what about small books of poetry? They have done no harm like the knight-errant books 
-Éstos no merecen ser quemados como los demás, porque no hacen ni harán el daño que los de caballerías han hecho
- but they might! What if DQ reads them and wants to be a shepherd or, worse, a poet? Right. Let's keep the poetry books but get rid of most of the poems in them
- toss out this one, keep that one 
- this absurd, droll book I will take home and read, as I like this sort of thing 
- give these to the "secular arm" of the ama and let's not bother to find out why, 'cause I am getting tired 
- keep this one, because I know the author 
- same for this one, even though the contents are so-so.
The curate and the barber came to Galatea, a title by Cervantes (his first, c 1585):
- I know this guy, more of reverses than verses and no conclusion; shut this book up in your house, don't let anyone read it and let's wait for volume two. (Cervantes' jokes here include: the poems are better than the stories; there would be no volume two to Galatea, but there would be, to DQ.)
Then three books of "Castelian heroic verse," the best of their kind, so keep them as rich treasures.
- the barber wanted to throw away the rest, as he was tired of the game but the curate saw one more he admired, so it was set aside.
Cervantes has laid out a long list of stupid reasons for burning books. If the reasons can be applied to contemporary circumstances, then the reasons are 'modern.' 

But hold on a minute.

The send-up of these 'modern' reasons, appeared in post-Tridentine Spain in 1605.

Employing  ridicule, Cervantes implies that ceremonial book-burning was accompanied by objections - even if no one dared to utter them, since to do so would risk escrutinio before the Inquisition.

Cervantes is probably not correctly classified as a 'modern' writer. At least, hold off for a bit with the categories, because Cervantes is crafting a story, which resonates not just in his own specific time and place.

From the point of view of rational decision-making, all of the the reasons offered for book-burning are absurd; this goes for even the occasional reprieve. 

Unless someone wants to argue that reasoning, i.e., reasonable objections to the burning of books did not occur in early 17th century Spain, then neither the ridiculous reasons nor the category of objections to book burning are, per se, 'modern' - they are simply objections.

I think it is a given that objections to book burning accompany the irrational decision to burn books, whenever a book is burned. 

Objections accompany the deed, just as do the reasons which justify the deed. These associations are as timeless as much as they can be said to be modern.

The event of the act is what matters to Cervantes; never mind the category - modern, medieval - assigned to the deed by whomever cares to parse the event into categories.

If Cervantes' concern was to object to book-burning in his own time, then why craft a fictional, that is, a metaphorical account? 

Cervantes, like all story tellers, is linking a past (not necessarily his own) with a future (not his either) by crafting imaginative present possibilities as links between past and future. 

Cervantes gets a lot of mileage from humor, in his depictions. Mark Twain is an important Cervantes heir.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ch 5 (cont) Dulcinea as Jarifa? Well, yes & "Jayanes in the dance, too"

Before taking a nap, DQ invokes the story of a Muslim princess:

Along the way, DQ insists that his rescuer is an imagined uncle and renowned knight-errant; but check out what he says about his fictional Dulcinea.

Sepa vuestra merced, señor don Rodrigo de Narváez, que esta hermosa Jarifa que he dicho es ahora la linda Dulcinea del Toboso por quien yo he hecho, hago y haré los más famosos hechos de caballerías que se han visto, vean ni verán en el mundo .
That your mercy, señor don Rodrigo de Narváez may know that the beautiful Jarifa, of whom I have spoken is now the beautiful Dulcinea del Toboso on whose behalf I have done, am doing and will continue to do the most famous knightly deeds that have ever been seen, are being seen or ever will be seen in the world.
Jarifa is a fictional, beautiful Moorish princess. 

Jarifa appears in an anonymous, so called, Moorish novel - novela morisca, entitled Historia del Abencerraje y de la hermosa Jarifa (Toledo, 1561).

What are we to make of this twist? -  a delusional Spanish knight announces that NOW his own highest, most beautiful patroness is a version of a Muslim princess.

Cervantes is creating circles within circles. 

His fictional creation, the hidalgo Quijana takes an assumed identity, don Quijote, who believes he has become the inspired protector of a Spanish princess, who is actually a farm girl that Quijana had a crush on. Now we are told, Dulcinea is a stand-in for a fictional Muslim princess. But Cervantes' hero, Quijana-Quijote, is insane. 

We are not going to dwell on the Jarifa-Dulcinea association since the story does not, but we at least take note. 

For a transport into a mood closer to all of these mythical characters, you are invited to listen to an annoyingly brief cut from #10 on the album El QUIJOTE,Romances, canciones y Danzas.

(You can hear the complete recording elsewhere, such as on "I Heart Radio" with a membership.)

Back to the plot:

DQ's peasant neighbor manages to get him on his feet and mounted up and then delivers him to his hacienda, where the rescuer, Pedro Alonzo, overhears the curate, the barber, the housekeeper and DQ's niece in a state of worry about the disappearance of their hidalgo.

The housekeeper - ama de casa - called here, ama, blames DQ's habits of reading as the cause of his insanity. She fetches a saucer of holy water and a sprinkler, so the burning of the heretical books may be sanctioned by holy ritual.

The ama may have a point about the drastic influence of the books on DQ's mental state.

DQ's niece chimes in - after a long bout of reading, DQ would slash the wall with his sword, reaching a state of exhaustion and shouting that he had just dispatched "giants" with the evidence being his sweat, which he took for blood seeping from his wounds. DQ would then make himself worse by drinking a large amount of cold water.

Pedro Alonzo, neighborly rescuer of DQ, having arrived outside the hacienda with DQ loaded on Rocinante, overhears this discussion. He enters the conversation by announcing the return of the knight-errant and himself as a knight of French legend.

DQ refuses to answer questions but insists that he needs medical attention; DQ ask for Urganda - fictional enchantress who came to the aid of  the iconic knight-errant Amadis de Gaula. The housekeeper refuses this request, saying no one needs a hurgada, a meddler (I think, is what is meant here.)

Medical aid denied him, DQ wishes only to eat and then sleep, having dispatched a number of "giants" before suffering injury occasioned by the antics of his horse.

¿Jayanes hay en la danza? Para mi santiguada que yo los queme mañana antes que llegue la noche.

"Are there giants (jayanes, wild men) in the dance?" 
asks the curate. If so, then books will need to be burned:

"By my sign of the Cross, I will burn them tomorrow before dusk."

With DQ tucked in, the discussion continues, in Chapter Six, not about whether but which books are tossed out on to the patio to be burned.