HomePare de sufrirThe departure in pursuit of the masterpiece

The departure in pursuit of the masterpiece

Anecdote, Idea, Form. Narrative fiction is considered a masterpiece when, through a particular anecdote, it raises an idea that occupies universal attention and expresses it in the literary form most appropriate to the background.

Essay without examples is like narration without characters. This intuition could be confirmed by examining three works universally accepted as masterful: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet and Ulysses, by James Joyce.

The madness of Alonso Quijano. And let's go with the Ingenious Hidalgo. By 1604, the date of the first edition of Don Quixote, Spain still officially abided by the ideology of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), that is, the Counter-Reformation. Faced with Protestants who maintained that everyone could interpret the Bible according to their conscience, the ecclesiastics gathered in Trent affirm that the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church is the owner of the only legitimate interpretation, and that this can be imposed through the sensory overwhelm of the aesthetics of the Baroque. Some time later, in his Novus Organum (1620), Francis Bacon systematized something that had been in the environment since the Renaissance: the principles of the experimental scientific method. The controversy, more than between reformers and Catholics, arose between baroque aesthetics and the scientific method as ways to knowledge.

This conceptual divergence posed a distressing dilemma in the way of understanding the world. The baroque aesthetic, consecrated by the Council of Trent, postulated an imperial Spain in the process of ruling the world through a universal monarchy. Such was the project that the advisor Mercurino de Gattinara proposed to the young Charles V when he assumed the Spanish throne and the Crown of the Holy Roman Empire. But in experimental reality, Spanish hegemony had been broken by perpetual wars with France, England, Italy, Holland and the Muslims, and its twilight had begun since the defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1688. The riches stolen from America had been squandered in buy goods from the rest of Europe: the opulent empire was sinking into misery.

In the field of culture, this disjunction between the splendid imperial project that the Baroque celebrated and the brutal poverty of reality was manifested in the proliferation of the literary figure of the rogue, who lives and survives on appearances: he pretends to be a graduate, a preacher, arbitrator, author of comedies or nobleman when he is nothing more than indigent. He is a fundamental character of mannerism, an aesthetic trend that tries to confuse fantasy and reality until they are indistinguishable. In Life is a Dream by Calderón de la Barca, the liberated Prince Sigismundo believes that his life in a dark dungeon since he was born has been a dream; Once again a prisoner, he describes his splendor at Court as a dream. The anguish of living between a lavish baroque imperial delirium and a destitute material reality was perhaps the dominant concern in imperial Spain.

Specifying these polarities in the essay was more than dangerous in the Iberia of inquisition, censorship of publications and religious discrimination. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra chose to express them allegorically, as a fable from which everyone can draw conclusions. The method of exposition of Don Quixote is that of the credulity of an alienated person, refuted by the other characters and by the reader himself. But quixotic madness is believing in empires, armies and imaginary knights-errant: in a Middle Ages that only existed in chivalric novels and in absolutist arrogance. Like the Spain of the time, Don Quixote imagines himself unbeatable, but he barely escapes beatings like the disaster of the Invincible Armada. The defeats of the Ingenious Hidalgo and those of Spain are the triumphs of experimental reality. The rogue Alonso Quijano deceives himself, trying to cover his decrepitude with outlandish weapons and chimerical illusions.

Cervantes chooses the most appropriate way to expose this dilemma: dialogue. The Ingenious Hidalgo attempts his first solitary outing. In another place I have pointed out that in such a situation everything happens to him but nothing happens to him: the soliloquy of an insane person can become tedious. In the controversy between fantasy and experimental reality, it must have its defender. The Knight returns to his village to provide himself, more than a squire, with an interlocutor. Since then, each new adventure is examined from the antagonistic points of view of the baroque imagination and experimental realism. Without knowing it, the Ingenious Hidalgo follows the arduous path of the scientific method. When faced with a building, there are two hypotheses; Baroque fantasy is called a castle, realism is a muleteer's sale. The dilemma is resolved through experimentation – asking for an inn – and the result: each adventure ends in a storm of beatings and humiliation, which Don Quixote attributes to the ill will of a sorcerer, and Sancho to the stubborn reality of the world. There is no exhibition method more appropriate than this counterpoint to the underlying controversy between baroque imperial fantasy and experimental reality.

The Mannerist diatribe on the reality of the imaginary and the imaginary of reality is inscribed in such controversy. In the second part, Don Quixote and Sancho know they are characters in a book, but they consider their images that roam around Avellaneda's plagiarized Don Quixote to be false, and they make an "Avellaneda character" confess such falsehood, included in the second part of Don Quixote. legitimate. In the discussion about whether or not the barber's basin is the invulnerable Helm of Mambrino, Cervantes narrates that the Ingenious Gentleman took it in his hands, slyly indicating with this particle that indicates masculinity, that the contradictory basin could well be a helmet. The novel of Don Quixote also includes other novels, pastoral or sentimental; There are also delusions within the delirium, like that of the Cueva de Montesinos. At the end of the second half, Sancho encourages Alonso Quijano, who has regained his senses, to return to the road in search of chimeras. They seem like the paradoxes of the Theory of Relativity or quantum physics: the world of experimental reality would seem to not be immune to that of subjectivist contradictions. But at that precise point the story ends. The sane Alonso Quijano does not arouse the slightest interest, nor does the monotonous reality from which Sancho wants to escape, inciting him to new adventures.

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