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

Don Quijote's Barcelona: Echoes of Hercules' Non Plus Ultra

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

Don Quijote's Barcelona: Echoes of Hercules' Non Plus Ultra

Article excerpt

WHEN WE ENVISION THE publication of Don Quijote, we think of the Madrid publisher, Juan de la Cuesta, whose name is found in both the first and second parts of the novel which appeared in 1605 and 1615 respectively. (1) Many are still surprised to learn that the first complete text of the two parts of the novel was published in Barcelona in 1617, the same year that the first edition of the Persilesy Sigismunda, Cervantes' last and posthumous novel. (2) Indeed, Texas A&M has recently acquired a copy of the rare 1617 edition as the four millionth volume for their Cushing Memorial Library collection. (3) It is not altogether surprising that Barcelona be given this place of distinction in the publication of Don Quijote. After all, this city is praised by Cervantes, even though the defeat of Don Quijote in Part Two of the novel takes place in Barcelona. (4) Thus, critics such as Luis G. Manegat have attempted to reconstruct the Barcelona of the beginnings of the seventeenth century. Some have also speculated as to when Cervantes may have visited Barcelona. Three main theories have emerged to clarify this issue. Many critics agree that Cervantes sailed to Italy from Barcelona or its environs in 1569, and this is how he came to know the city. Carmen Riera proposes that Cervantes traveled to Barcelona from Italy, and it was in the Catalonia metropolis that he joined don Juan de Austria in 1571, and set sail for what was to be the famous battle of Lepanto. (5) For Martin de Riquer, Cervantes went to Barcelona in 1610 seeking the patronage of Pedro Fernandez de Carro, the seventh Conde de Lemos who was then embarking from Barcelona to become Viceroy of Naples. Jean Canavaggio endorses this moment as the most likely. Although I agree with this last assessment. But ir is quite possible that Cervantes visited the city more than once. (6)

This essay, however, is an attempt to understand why Barcelona plays such an important role in Cervantes' novel. First, I will look at the obvious reasons why Barcelona would want to print the complete text of Don Quijote. Secondly, I will analyze the knight's praise of the city in Part Two of the novel in order to decipher its contrary meanings, its reversibility. Third, the mythical and political subtexts of the novel will be discussed as they relate to Barcelona. The myths of Hercules will be key to this analysis. Turning first to Hercules and Cacus and then to Hercules and Antaeon, I will show how the myth's reversibility foreground certain anxieties regarding Barcelona. (7) A discussion of the Pillars of Hercules and the founding of Barcelona will further problematize the city's role in divulging the knight's exploits.

There are a few very obvious reasons why Barcelona would want to be first. The novel actually describes a printing press which Don Quijote views, thus almost inviting the publication of the book in Barcelona and further blurring the distinctions between reality and fiction, one of the major motifs of the work. In addition, Don Quijote had, by this time, become a comic masterpiece. Everyone knew about this "funny book," and there were constant attempts to evoke the main characters in feasts, contests and plays. So, it is not surprising that Barcelona, with its substantial publishing industry, its many feasts and courtly entertainments would attempt to be first in publication. And there is a clearly laudatory passage, declaimed by Don Quijote, long after he has left the city. This praise of Barcelona could not go unnoticed at a time when relations with Philip III were rather scrained. (8)

And yet, Barcelona becomes the last turning point in Part Two of the novel. It is the place where Don Quijote is defeated. Thus, the anxiety of being first to publish might be coupled with other anxieties. The first complete edition cannot begin to answer any of the questions posed by attentive readers. After all, it is not illustrated, and thus we have no hints as to the publisher's views on the novel. …

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