Monday, December 3, 2007

Cervantes, Don Quijote


Cervantes' genius never ceases to amaze me. I will comment on two points that always catch my attention: First, his use of the literary device so called 'the frame;' and second, his use of antitheses.

By introducing the frame of a found manuscript , Cervantes quickly begs the reader for his suspension of disbelief to the fantastic, fabulous, wild stories, and events that will befall the last of the knight errants: Don Quijote of La Mancha.

According to Cervantes, the story isn't really a story (fiction) but a history of a Spanish hidalgo whose adventures are recorded in the annals of the region called La Mancha. The narrator is not a common storyteller like Scheherazade, raconteurs like Chaucer and Bocaccio, or interested witnesses like Nelly Dean and Mr. LockwoodWood who tell Heathcliff's story in Wuthering Heights. No.

The writer is an Arab historian named Cide Hamete Benengeli, of whom Cervantes has this to say:

"If any objection can be raised regarding the truth of this one, it can only be that its author was Arabic, since the people of that nation are very prone to telling falsehood, but because they are such great enemies of ours, it can be assumed that he has given us too little rather than too much."

Cervantes declared that his success as a writer was due in great part to his mastery of the use of anthithesis, a rhetorical figure that he uses throughout the long narrative. The translation by Edith Grossman is so far the best I have encountered. It is fresh and faithful--unsurpassed.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

Toolbox for Writers


Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


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