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Liberty is not a woman walking the streets, she is not sitting on a bench waiting for an invitation to dinner, to come sleep in our bed for the rest of her life.

José Saramago

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Monday, February 24th, 2014

posted evening of February 24th, 2014: Respond
➳ More posts about Miguel de Cervantes

Wednesday, February first, 2012

Before Don Quixote

Some idle Googling the other day brought me to Mercedes García-Arenal and Fernandez Rodríguez-Mediano's essay on Miguel de Luna, Arabic Christian from Granada and thence to de Luna's True History of King Roderic... Lots to read... (And can it really be true that de Luna's True History has never been translated into English? It seems strange to think such a thing but I am not finding it anywhere. This looks like a pretty key bit of history of literature to me...)

posted evening of February first, 2012: Respond
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Monday, September 26th, 2011

Nature and fiction

The exchange that has been taking place at The Stone over the past few weeks on the subject of naturalism takes an interesting turn today with William Egginton's assertion that "fiction itself... has played a profound role in creating the very idea of reality that naturalism seeks to describe." Egginton focuses on Cervantes' creation of a narrative reality which exists independently of his characters' subjective experiences, and sees the idea of "objective reality" developing around this same time.

posted evening of September 26th, 2011: Respond

Sunday, July 18th, 2010


...truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future's counselor.
This catalog of attributes, written in the seventeenth century, and written by the "ingenious layman" Miguel de Cervantes, is mere rhetorical praise of history.
-- "Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote" (Hurley's translation)
It was not until I was reading the Quixote this evening and happened on the quoted line (near the end of the ninth chapter) that I realized it is not a mere rhetorical flourish, that Borges is calling attention to the line for his own reasons. (Still not exactly sure what those reasons are...; but the line comes at the end of bit of meta-storytelling that sounds to my ear very Borgesian, about the discovery and translation of Benengeli's history. When I'm reading it now it sounds like Cervantes is being ironic about the truth-value of his story.)

posted evening of July 18th, 2010: 4 responses
➳ More posts about Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote

Saturday, June 12th, 2010


At a street fair yesterday, I happened on Patrick Woodruff selling his wares, including Las aventuras de ¡QUIXOTE! -- bought a copy, it's a lot of fun. Take a look at his deviantart gallery, the pages of this comic are all there.

posted morning of June 12th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about Comix

Saturday, September 26th, 2009


This is a funny bit of information: The island where José Saramago lives (and about which he has published a series of journals) is Lanzarote, in the Canaries. I had never realized what this name is until I was reading along in Don Quixote just now:

...puesto que no quisiera descubrirme fasta que las fazañas fechas en vuestro servicio y pro me descubrieran, la fuerza de acomodar al propósito presente este romance viejo de Lanzarote...

...given that I had not wanted to declare myself until the deeds I had performed in your service made me known, the necessity of adapting to the present circumstances that old romance of Lancelot...

I'm giggling now thinking about Saramago living on an island named after Sir Lancelot. Probably just me...

posted afternoon of September 26th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about José Saramago

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Y así, sin dar parte a persona alguna de su intención, y sin que nadie le viese, una mañana, antes del día, que era uno de los calurosos del mes de julio,... salío al campo con grandísima contento y alborozo de ver con cuanta facilidad había dado principio a su gran buen deseo.
I've understood vaguely all along that Cervantes is considered a major root of the tree which is Spanish-language literature but never quite gotten it from the translations I've read. But looking at the original as I've been doing over the last couple of days I am starting to understand what a master of language he is -- even though I am only half- or three-quarters-understanding it the force of his voice is pulling me in and along.

Update: Oh and cool, look at this article I just found with some history as regards Picasso's image of the man of La Mancha.

posted evening of September 25th, 2009: 3 responses

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

In which I take issue with Borges

Borges starts out by talking about how one reads detective stories.

To think is to generalize; we need the useful archetypes of Plato to be able to make any claim. So: why shouldn't we affirm that there are literary genres? I will add a personal observation: literary genres depend, perhaps, less on the texts themselves than on the manner in which they are read. The æsthetic fact requires a conjunction of reader and text; only then does it exist. It is absurd to suppose that a volume is anything more than a volume. It starts to exist when the reader opens the volume. Then the æsthetic phenomenon comes into existence, which could be imagined from the moment when the book was engendered.

And there is an actual type of reader, the reader of detective fiction. This reader -- this reader whom we encounter in every country of the world and who numbers in the millions -- was brought into being by Edgar Allen Poe. Let us suppose that this reader did not exist -- or let's suppose something perhaps more interesting, that we are dealing with a person far removed from ourselves. He could be a Persian, a Malay, a hayseed, a kid -- some person whom we tell that the Quixote is a detective novel; let us suppose that this hypothetical person has read detective novels, and he begins reading the Quixote. So how is he going to read it?

Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, not long ago there lived a gentleman... and already this reader is filled with suspicions, for the reader of detective novels is a skeptical reader, suspicious, particularly suspicious.

For example, when he reads: Somewhere in la Mancha..., of course he supposes that this did not take place in la Mancha. Then: ...whose name I do not care to remember..., -- why does Cervantes not care to remember? Without a doubt because Cervantes is the murder[er], is at fault. Then, ...not long ago...; it may be that what has already happened is not as terrifying as the future.

The first two paragraphs of this passage seem just fantastic to me (given that I didn't think there was any real need in the first place, to defend the legitimacy of talking about genre) -- the idea that literary genre is determined by an interaction between the reader and the text has a whole lot of room for interesting stuff to com out of it. The idea that Edgar Allen Poe created the reader of detective stories is a nice little nugget of thought. And the thought experiment of reading Don Quixote as a detective story is a great idea, of course bringing to mind Borges' story about Pierre Menard. But when he embarks on the experiment, he goes off on the wrong track.

The suspicions that Borges attributes to the reader of detective fiction are suspicions about the intent of the narrator, of the author of the Quixote. But the unreliable narrator does not belong to the detective story, and suspicion of him does not belong to the detective story reader; Laurence Sterne predates Poe by a hundred years, and he did not invent the unreliable narrator. (If memory serves, for that matter, the narrator of the actual Quixote is himself not particularly reliable.*) It's been a while since I read any genre detective stories, but the way I recall reading them is being suspicious of the characters and the ways they presented themselves; the narrator (speaking here of stories in the third person or narrated by the detective, and not considering the Raymond Chandler branch of the genre) did not lie, though he might fail to disclose valuable information or might himself be deceived.

So, there's my quibble with this lecture -- which I have not read in full yet. This reading a language I do not understand seems to really point me in the direction of reading closely, at least...

...Looking ahead, some really great stuff in the body of this lecture. Stay tuned, I'll try and write more this evening. Borges thinks the two authors "without whom literature would not be what it is today" are Poe and Whitman.

* I mean to say, it seems completely natural to wonder why Cervantes does not care to remember the place where his novel begins -- but it's not because I suspect Cervantes of being the guilty party, and I don't believe it's because I have read detective stories. I wonder if a 17th-Century reader would have this reaction -- it's hard for me to imagine any other way of reacting to that sentence.

posted evening of February 26th, 2009: 11 responses
➳ More posts about Borges oral

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

-- Ohhhhh......

So I'm reading the third chapter of Autobiographies of Orhan Pamuk (which concerns The Silent House) and thinking, the family name Darvinoğlu sounds awfully familiar -- was it the name of one of the characters in The Black Book? And then I start reading the fourth chapter, which concerns The White Castle, and get to the following passage, which makes the scales fall from my eyes:

It was Don Quixote that inspired [Pamuk] to present his own novel as an old manuscript found and translated into modern Turkish; once that was decided, it occurred to him that it would be amusing to have the manuscript found in the archives at Gebze and translated by none other than Faruk Darvinoğlu, the historian of The Silent House.

Oh! So the characters I was wondering about in the winter have earlier roots. Wild -- I wish The Silent House were available in an English translation.

McGaha also says that some critics faulted Holbrook, in her translation of The White Castle, for including the references to The Silent House without any explanation -- this seems a little weird to me. I can't see how she could have provided any explanation within the text; maybe an afterword should have been included. Doesn't seem like it would have made a huge difference in the reading experience.

posted afternoon of July 26th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about The White Castle

Friday, March 19th, 2004

Truth may be stretched thin and not break, but float upon the surface of the lie, like oil on water

Don Quixote, Part II, Chapter X

For some reason, this quote out of context reminds me strongly of neocon arguments in support of the Iraq war.

posted evening of March 19th, 2004: Respond

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