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

Cesareo Bandera. "Monda Y Desnuda": La Humilde Historia De Don Quijote. Reflexiones Sobre El Origen De la Novela Moderna

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

Cesareo Bandera. "Monda Y Desnuda": La Humilde Historia De Don Quijote. Reflexiones Sobre El Origen De la Novela Moderna

Article excerpt

Cesareo Bandera. "Monda y desnuda": La humilde historia de Don Quijote. Reflexiones sobre el origen de la novela moderna. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2005. 405 pp. ISBN: 84-8589-189-5.

This is a study by a true believer, for Bandera evinces a fervent faith in a trinity of "deities": the God of the Christians, Cervantes, and Rene Girard. There is nothing surprising about the last one: Bandera hitched his critical wagon to Girard's theory of mimetic desire at least thirty years ago. Combined with the same critic's analysis of the role of the scapegoat in the relationship between violence and the sacred, Bandera continues to find mimetic desire a productive model for interpretation. Such long fidelity to one intellectual mentor, taken with Bandera's conviction that he can read Cervantes' mind and intentions through his work, and his repeated assertion of the "reality" and "truth" of the Christian God, makes this a rather old-fashioned work as well.

It is also a lengthy one, given that Bandera claims that both his argument and Cervantes' are simple: "No pretendo descubrir 'el secreto" del Quijote, porque no creo que el Quijote guarde ningun secreto" (11). Instead, "Lo profundo esta en el primer plano ... en esa humildisima historia de un loco" (394), whose "locuras" serve to entertain the readers at the same time that the story tells them"que es una pena que ese hombre haga esas cosas, y que lo decente y caritativo es desear que ese hombre se cure ... y vuelva a ver la realidad sin los anteojos de la ficcion." The salvation of the madman, for Bandera, is the "real" story of Don Quijote as the first modern novel, and it arises out of "un simple acto de compasion y tolerancia" (19) on the part of Cervantes. Bandera thus sets himself against the kind of reader, typified for him by Unamuno, who sees the mad Quijote as a hero:

   Pensaba Unamuno que todo lo que se le podia ocurrir al mediocre
   Cervantes era un Alonso Quijano bueno, pero no un Alonso Quijano
   heroicamente loco, es decir, un Alonso Quijano que, sin dejar de
   ser "el bueno," fuera mas alla, pasara a ser bueno en grado
   heroico, cosa que no puede lograrse ... sin aparecer a los
   ojos de la mediocridad reinante, de todos los Cervantes y
   cervantitos, como loco de remate. (180)

Implicitly, however, the length of Bandera's book and the breadth of the literary texts he considers imply a recognition that many of the Quijote's readers over the years would agree with Unamuno, if not with regard to Cervantes' mediocrity as a writer, then certainly that Don Quijote possesses a grandeur--whether it is called heroism or not, whether Cervantes intended it or not--that Alonso Quijano's sane, Christian death belies. It also implies a complexity of structure, narrative voice, and references that must make it more than a simple, humble story of a man cured of madness.

In order to convince such readers that what matters is sanity and Christianity, and not the nearly one thousand pages of mad adventures and the evocation of imaginary worlds, Bandera analyzes classical literature, the picaresque, the pastoral, the various interpolated stories of the first part of Don Quijote, Persiles y Sigismunda, Unamuno's Abel Sanchez and Niebla, as well as Bakhtin and Kierkegaard, with brief forays into other texts as well. As this list may make one suspect, the overarching argument concerning the "monda y desnuda" story of the madman cured often disappears from the surface of Bandera's study, just as Don Quijote's supposed progress from mad to sane does in the novel. Indeed, some of these individual set-pieces of literary criticism (see below) are more convincing within their generic context than the study's broader thesis, which suffers at times from the author's own intense faith in those three authorities mentioned in the first paragraph of this review.

Bandera begins by proposing that there is a significant disjunction between the classical, pagan world and the Christian, and that it is predicated upon the "desacralization" of mankind's view of the universe. …

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