Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

Alonso Fernandez De Avellaneda. El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote De la Mancha

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

Alonso Fernandez De Avellaneda. El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote De la Mancha

Article excerpt

Ed. Luis Gomez Canseco. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2000. 789 pp. ISBN: 84-7030-763-0.

As generations of Hollywood screen writers have learned to their chagrin, turning out a successful sequel to a blockbuster hit can be a tricky piece of work, especially if the original author is not involved in the production of the follow-up. But anyone familiar with the history of Spanish literature already knows how long the odds are against the critical success of such an effort. Celestina inspired many ambitious spin-offs, none of which came anywhere close to enjoying Fernando de Rojas's critical and commercial success of 1499. Similar unsuccessful imitations include Juan Marti's 1602 attempt to benefit from the phenomenal sales of Mateo Aleman's Guzman de Alfarache (1599) and Juan de Luna's 1620 tepid continuation of the classic picaresque biography, Lazarillo de Tormes (1554). Gaspar Gil Polo's pastoral Diana enamorada (1564), a critically acclaimed sequel to Jorge de Montemayor's Siete libros de la Diana (ca. 1559), was a notable exception to the rule. Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda's 1614 unauthorized and spurious continuation of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quijote is perhaps the most notorious of Spanish literary sequels, relegated to the literary dustbin over the years, largely because an indignant and irate Cervantes went to great lengths to trash Avellaneda's second part when he published his own sequel in 1615.

For modern Hispanists, the so-called False Quijote is something of a curiosity, a quaint literary item that many have heard about but few have actually read with any real intensity. In all, there have been fewer than twenty editions of Avellaneda's work published since the appearance of the original version, only six of them in the past fifty years. Of these, the most celebrated is Martin de Riquer's three-volume Clasicos Castellanos edition, a welcome addition at the time of its publication (1972), but a work whose critical apparatus is now considered somewhat passe. Thanks to Gomez Canseco, those of us with an interest in the Avellaneda text now have access to a single-volume edition that includes a first-rate introductory study, a very useful bibliography, and much more.

In his lengthy introduction Gomez Canseco is quick to point out that Avellaneda was hardly the first to imitate or parody Don Quijote while Cervantes was still alive; Salas Barbadillo, Francisco de Avila, and Guillen de Castro all published material based on Cervantes' creation in the years immediately following 1605 (10). Avellaneda's primary objective, according to Gomez Canseco, was to astonish his readers while indoctrinating them in matters of faith; provoking laughter was a secondary objective (15). Another strong motive was Avellaneda's fervent desire to settle some unspecified accounts by pillorying Cervantes and his work in a widely disseminated document. Cervantes, of course, had the final word in his own sequel, with the result that Cervantine critics over the centuries have undertaken a campaign to cast Avellaneda's opus as one unworthy to be mentioned in the same sentence with the original. Only in recent years have some critics, among them E. C. Riley and this reviewer, recognized the need to look at the 1614 work with greater objectivity.

A large portion of the introduction deals with the critics' centuries-old search for Avellaneda's true identity ("Pesquisas en torno a Avellaneda"). Gomez Canseco concludes this section with a bold and interesting hypothesis of his own: that Avellaneda's Quijote was in fact a collaborative effort undertaken by several friends of Cervantes' nemesis, Lope de Vega, who not only gave his consent to the project but may indeed have taken a proactive role in the preparation of the manuscript (59). With regard to the pseudonymous author's peculiar ideological bent, Gomez Canseco concludes that Avellaneda was a religious as well as a social conservative, a man devoted to the rosary (there are thirty references to it in the work) and obsessed by the issue of moral decay that threatened to erode the very fabric of Spanish (i. …

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