Exemplary Stories

Exemplary Stories

Exemplary Stories

Exemplary Stories

Synopsis

Even more popular in their day than Don Quixote, Cervantes's Exemplary Stories (1613) surprise, challenge and delight. Ranging from the picaresque to the satirical, Cervantes's Exemplary Stories defy the conventions of heroic chivalric literature through a combination of comic irony, moral ambiguity, realism, and sheer mirth. With acute narrative skill and deft characterisation, drawing on colloquial language and farce, Cervantes creates a tension between the everyday and the literary, the plausible and the improbable. While encouraging us to reach our own moral conclusions, he also persuades us to accept the coincidental and the incredible: two boys indulge their life of crime at a time of public prayer; a young nobleman undergoes a change of identity at the behest of not a princess but a mere gipsy girl, and, most fantastically, talking dogs philosophize in a ward full of syphilitics. By placing the extraordinary within the contexts of the ordinary, the Exemplary Stories chart new novelistic territory and demonstrate Cervantes at his most imaginative and innovative. This new translation captures the full vigour of Cervantes's wit and makes available two rarely printed tales, `The Illustrious Kitchen Maid' and `The Power of Blood'.

Excerpt

I would prefer, if it were possible, dearest reader, not to have to write this prologue, for the one I put in my Don Quixote was not such a success that I am eager to follow it up with another. The fault lies with a friend of mine, one of the many I have acquired during the course of my life, thanks more to my temperament than my wit. This friend could easily, in keeping with established practice, have engraved and printed my likeness on the first page of this book, since the famous don Juan de Jaureguí* had given him my portrait. That way my ambition would have been satisfied, together with the curiosity of those people who want to acquaint themselves with the face and figure of the man who dares to display such inventiveness in the market-place and expose it to public scrutiny. Beneath the portrait he could have written:

'The man you see before you, with aquiline features, chestnutcoloured hair, smooth, unwrinkled brow, bright eyes, and curved though well-proportioned nose, silver beard that not twenty years ago was golden, large moustache, small mouth, teeth neither large nor small--since he boasts only six of them, and those he has are in poor condition and even worse positions, for not one of them cuts against another--of medium build, neither tall nor short, a healthy colour in his cheeks, fair rather than dark complexion, slightly stooping, and not very light on his feet. This, then, is a description of the author of La Galatea and Don Quixote of la Mancha and the man who wrote Journey to Parnassus, which was modelled on the one by César Caporal Perusino,* and other works which have gone astray, perhaps without their owner's name upon them. He is commonly known as Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. He was for many years a soldier and a prisoner for five and a half after that, during which time he learned to cultivate patience in adversity. He lost his left hand in the naval battle of Lepanto to a blunderbuss shot, and although the injury is ugly he considers it beautiful because he incurred it at the most noble and memorable event that past centuries have seen or future generations can ever hope to witness, fighting beneath the victorious banners of the son of that thunderbolt of war, Charles V of happy memory.'

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