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

The Dog's Growl: Narration in Las Novelas Ejemplares

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

The Dog's Growl: Narration in Las Novelas Ejemplares

Article excerpt

CIPION.--Quiero decir que la sigas de golpe, sin que la hagas que parezca pulpo, segun la vas anadiendo colas. CERVANTES, "El coloquio de los perros"

CERVANTES' NOVELLAS, "EL COLOQUIO de los perros" and "El casamiento enganoso," are much like the head of the bizarre octopus mentioned by Cipion, because both represent the problematic nature of narration (319). (1) This octopus is simultaneously exemplary of narration as ah idea/practice and Cervantes' Las novelas ejemplares. These two novellas that end the collection make up the central point or knot that joins together various narrative strings, but also creates a problematic nexus that complicates and perhaps confounds all that has been read previously.

The problem does not solely lie in the fact that a nexus exists which connects the stories to one another but rather that these final two stories call into question the nature and function of language/narration in a very palpable manner. These unifying stories which provide a base level of narration do not speak of pilgrims gathered in an inn who tell their stories as in The Canterbury Tales, nor do they speak of an estate where young refugees fleeing the bubonic plague recount their individual tales as in The Decameron. As readers, our anchor is the world of a picaresque syphilitic soldier that overheard and recorded a conversation between two dogs.

Therefore, everything that has come before music establish itself within a perhaps "imaginary" world of talking dogs, possibly the effect of the 40 nights of syphilitic fevers, or within the framework of a deceptive tale designed to entertain a friend. Either way it is safe to say in an extraordinary world, but moreover what is at stake is the nature of verisimilitude and the systems that dictate what is appropriate to be narrated (the who, what, where, when, and how).

In the essay "Cervantes and the Dialogic World", Nicholas Spadaccini and Jenaro Talens suggest that Las novelas ejemplares is a non-verosimile work (219). Following this logic I would like to push this idea further to the extreme and suggest that this work and these works are inherently anti-verosimile. What I wish to say is that this work overturns the notion of verisimilitude in an active manner, but not necessarily with intent. (2)

Campuzano's narration makes it necessary for us as readers to confront an inevitable epistemological choice. If we choose to trust the verisimilitude of "Rinconete y Cortadillo,' "El celoso extremeno," and perhaps all the works of this collection we music concede that dogs talk. If we choose to steer clear of such a seemingly ludicrous statement we would have to admit that everything in this work is apocryphal and we have wasted our time reading the rantings of an idiot who was tricked by his own trap.

The nature of the ties that exist between reality and fiction are of the utmost importance in the case of "El coloquio de los perros" and it can be said that the ties themselves function through the process and state of verisimilitude. Americo Carro speaks about how verisimilitude functions in the works of Cervantes. He writes in El pensamiento de Cervantes:

   The perceptive taught Cervantes to dearly define the area of
   universal or idealist art in the face of particular or naturalist
   art. And it pleases him, as soon as the perimeter its delimited, to
   breach it and show the impossibility of such limitations ... For
   our author the possible and the impossible, the verisimile and
   inverisimile, are not merely objective, but rather that they depend
   on the relationship of the object to the subject; in other words an
   ideal and subjective element. (my translation) (36, 40)

Here verisimilitude does not fulfill its typical function because the plane of reality is not attached convincingly to the plane of fiction. The breaches that Castro describes demonstrate that verisimilitude is at least a problematic issue in Cervantes' works. …

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