University of Florida
en su biblioteca,
je ne cherche aux livres qu'à m'y donner du plaisir par un honneste amusement;[...].
|Michel de Montaigne|
|Pedro Malón de Chaide|
Michel de Montaigne wrote of his library,
«C'est là mon siège. J'essaie à m'en rendre
la domination pure et à soustraire ce seul coin à la
communauté et conjugale, et filiale, et civile»
(Chartier 127). There,
in the solitary meeting place not just of pleasure but of knowledge and power,
the great lord was alone with his books and free of the demands placed upon him
by society, both domestic and civil. Montaigne's library, though secluded, is
not a particularly large room or in any way an imposing one, and is at a great
remove from the appetite for the gigantic and the spectacular characteristic of
French high culture, particularly that of the court, in a succeeding age. The
room itself does not at all seem to have been created with the forethought that
Gabriel Naudé recommends in the
Advis pour dresser une bibliothèque.
Naudé devotes Chapter VI of his treatise, published in 1627, to the
important topic of choosing a room for one's books, «La disposition du
lieu où on les doit garder», and begins it with a justification of
the chapter's brevity. It should, he allows, be as long as the preceding ones
but constraints on putting its precepts into practice make brevity the most
reasonable course. He writes,
Naudé recognized that the ideal room for a library was not always in consonance with the vagaries of domestic architecture, and we could take Montaigne's as a case in point. It seems a relatively modest thing, a place conforming more to the disposition of his house and his need for solitude than to the rules of architecture as they were set down by Vitruvius and his Renaissance commentators. Nonetheless, with its passages from Latin and Greek authors inscribed on the crossbeams, it was the textualized space where he could be at one with the self that he had constructed.
In this the French nobleman and essayist bears a certain similitude to his fictional near-contemporary, the Castilian hidalgo who, alone in a room set aside exclusively for his books, fashioned an identity made of their spirit and matter. Here, however, the similarity ends, for Montaigne was the greatest French writer of his time and Don Quixote was a madman the nature of whose madness is —14→ inseparable from his library, that is, both the books and the place where they were housed. That place, the room where the hidalgo kept his books and shut himself in to read them, requires some examination for it is of itself unusual. In the Castile of 1600, petty rural hidalgos of scant resources owned few books, especially of the kind that Don Quixote favored, (Chevalier 24-29; Bennassar 519) and thus had no need of a special room in which to display and, should the occasion arise, to read them. The character who in Cervantes' tale of madness is about to reinvent himself as a knight errant owns a very great many books for a man of his time, place and station, and has set aside a room solely for his delectation of them. It is, as is Montaigne's, his siège, the redoubt where he goes to be alone and free of obligations, the place where literally he shuts the door on the world.
The hidalgo's library is the site of a breach in an otherwise harmonious, albeit modest, domestic order. His life prior to the onset of madness, the moment when, filled with chivalric fantasies, his brain dries up and he takes leave of his sanity, occupies three short paragraphs in a work, according to the «Tasa», of seventy three pliegos (1, 27). Yet despite their brevity and apparent triviality, their interest in enumerating the seemingly insignificant, the minutia of everyday life, those lines command our attention, for they tell us in some detail of the hidalgo's meagre expenditures on food and clothing, which consume the entirety of his income:
|(I, 1, 69-71)|
This is a life rooted firmly and deeply and to all appearances unchangingly in the quotidian. It is governed by the immediacy of daily life and, within the framework of that immediacy, the profane. A single detail may suffice to illustrate the latter point. In his library of more than three hundred volumes, devotional works, the one category of books universally present in early modern Castilian book lists, are entirely absent. In sum, the hidalgo's life is parsimonious and uneventful, defined by the one-dimensional facticity of the present, and provides the fabulist with no material, no story to tell.
Here a caveat is in order: we should not misconstrue the
hidalgo's poverty. Plainly he is near, although not quite at, the Spanish
nobility's lower reaches. Infinitely removed from the titled
aristocracy's wealth and power, he also stands in contrast to comfortable
Don Quixote's own character, Don Diego de
Miranda, who we are told is
labrador y rico» (II, 18, 169), and to
wealthy farmers such as Dorotea, who describes herself and her family as
«riqueza y magnífico
trato les va poco a poco adquiriendo nombre de hidalgos, y aun de caballeros
[...]» (I, 28, 34812). Her account of her work, indeed the very fact
of her work, which occupies nearly all her time, is revealing, for it is she
who had managed her father's large and prosperous estate until her disgrace at
Don Fernando's hand:
|(I, 28, 348-9)|
The contrast between wealthy, hard-working commoners with a large,
varied and productive agricultural enterprise employing numerous laborers and a
houseful of servants on the one hand, and on the other a straitened hidalgo, is
very striking. Don Quijote's estate has no oil or wine presses, no cattle or
sheep, no beehives, nothing at all beyond wheatlands which cannot have been
very productive because there were no
capataces and, of course, no one to
work them. The household is constituted solely by his housekeeper and his
niece. There is, in addition, a single all-purpose laborer, the
mozo de campo y plaza who is mentioned
at the outset of the book and never reappears. Nor is there any need for him to
do so once the hidalgo's daily routine is shattered by his demented pursuit of
knight errantry, for the fields and very nearly all other saleable possessions
have been sold off -Don Quixote himself tells Don Diego de Miranda that
hacienda» (II, 16, 151)- and there is no
longer anything to bring to market, if ever, as seems unlikely, there was very
much. Finally, to complete the picture of the
household, we may
add a hunting dog and a horse who will be named when his master acquires an
Yet no matter how dramatic the difference between some of the more prosperous characters, both aristocratic and common, and the petty nobleman who becomes Don Quijote, the latter is not exactly poor, at least not in the way that ordinarily we understand the word. He does not live uncomfortably and wants for nothing. (Indeed, this is the very essence of his life prior to devouring and, in turn, being devoured by books: he is unmoved by desire.) He owns an estate that, if we go beyond the immediate reproduction of the household's material conditions of existence, does not produce a surplus. Consequently, there is no money and he stands at the margins, if not entirely outside, an economy of exchange mediated by coin. But rather than poor in a sense that is meaningful to a world like ours in which very nearly everything has been commodified, he simply does not have any money. And in a pre- or even proto-capitalist rural economy, that is not necessarily the same thing as poverty. It is rather that, as both Noël Salomon (302-3) and Pierre Vilar (46-59) have argued, he belongs to a dying, although in his case still propertied, stratum of the lesser Castilian nobility in the historically ambiguous circumstance of slowly but very surely disappearing as a class fraction.
Indeed, Cervantes' fable of madness can be read, at one level, as an allegory of that disappearance. Its protagonist lives in a very nearly self-sustaining, although only barely self-sustaining, agricultural economy, something very much like the so-called «natural» economies characteristic of European feudalism but common enough in a variety of pre-capitalist economic formations. «Natural» economies stood entirely or almost entirely outside the networks of even simple commodity production and exchange and, in the context of European feudalism, produced a surplus sufficient only for the reproduction, that is the physical survival, of the immediate household. This is the context of Don Quixote's poverty, which is of a kind not uncommon in both the Middle Ages and early modernity, where labor power is not yet fully commodified and money does not yet function as a generalized mediation of social relations. Consequently, rather than poor in an absolute sense -and in early modern Castile many hidalgos were literally destitute- Cervantes' character is relatively poor and in a very particular way: he is both moneyless and propertied.
He is also immensely leisured, although not in the sense that we associate with the nobility's sumptuary expenditures. Before the onset of madness, our hidalgo administers his property and, since there —17→ seems rather little requiring his attention, he has a very great deal of time on his hands, which he spends hunting. We learn of this in the negative, so to speak, when he has begun to abandon those pursuits, the normal occupations of a man like Quixada/Quesada/Quijana / Quexana:
|(I, 1, 71)|
We should take note of the fact that in this scheme of things, hunting does not exactly come under the heading of leisure, and so does not correspond to the time when the hidalgo is ocioso. Rather, it is an ejercicio and Cervantes very clearly counterposes that activity to otium or non-activity. Thus, hunting must be included in the time taken up by occupations of one kind or another. In the hidalgo's daily life, ocio is filled entirely by books, and only books of a certain kind.
At this point, the narration essays a spatial movement away from both the work and leisure of the external world -the administration of property; the hunt. The text turns inward, gravitating toward the domestic interior and settling momentarily in a single space which previously did not exist and has now to be created: the library, a room where there is nothing but books. Cervantes, however, takes that movement one final and utterly decisive step further. The narrowing of the space in which the hidalgo exists leads to an increasingly enclosed existence which has as its terminus ad quem the printed page. At this point the time and space of the opening pages -an unspecified town of La Mancha, the hidalgo's estate and household; the repetitive time of village life- are effaced, at least for the protagonist. Henceforth, the hidalgo, transformed into Don Quixote, lives in the space of print and the time of reading.
Don Quixote, work and other occupations, and
leisure, are important not just thematically but because they constitute the
structures within which the characters, the fictitious
lectores in fabula, read. The
characters in Cervantes' tale who read do so within a framework created by the
exigencies of everyday life, society's demands upon them and, of course, their
occupations. This is true of characters belonging to very diverse strata of
society: Dorotea, Juan Palomeque, his family and his servant, Maritornes, the
harvesters, the priest and the barber, the Canon of Toledo, Don Diego de
Miranda, and, of course, Don Quixote himself. That framework is
twofold in nature: it is both social and discursive. Social, because the
the idle reader whom the author of the 1605 prologue addresses, is only
temporarily idle. As Mario Socrate observes of the modifier
«l'epiteto ritaglia un tipo di
lettore da una zona di ozio e di casualità»;
(90) he -or she- is the sort of reader that Juan de Zabaleta
writes about in the chapter of the
Día de fiesta por la mañana y por la
tarde devoted to books (205-216). The readers in
Don Quixote momentarily put aside their work,
their cares, the obligations attendant upon rank, in a word their occupations,
and, temporarily unoccupied, read for recreation. In sum, they conform to one
of the definitions of
entretenimiento that Covarrubias gives
Tesoro de la lengua castellana:
«qualquier cosa que divierta o entretenga al hombre, como
el juego o la conversación o la
What they read are, virtually by definition, libros de entretenimiento, recreational books. But recreational books come in a great variety of shapes and sizes and their contents vary considerably. At the conclusion of the chapter on books in his Día de fiesta por la mañana y por la tarde and on the mostly frivolous uses to which he believes recreational reading is put, Zabaleta contrasts this reality with a desideratum. One of his readers wanders about in his well-stocked and prominently displayed but largely unused library:
Whether sacred or profane, what recreational books have in common is a function, literally to re-create, to furnish the mind and the body with the repose that will allow readers to return to their habitual tasks. And it is not entirely clear that in a confrontation between Estebanillo and Augustine, the former was a hands-down choice. Keith Whinnom has called attention to the preponderance of devotional reading in early modern Spain and, in any event, it is not necessarily the case that early modern readers, as distinct from more or less professional moralists, antinomialized the pícaro and the saint.
In Don Quixote, Dorotea presents herself as a paragon of virtue whose recreational reading is comprised exclusively of devotional works.
|(I, 28, 348-9)|
In this regard she is unlike most of the characters in Don Quixote, whose reading is overwhelmingly and admittedly profane, with a distinct preference for the fabulous. And we might underline the word «admittedly», because the facility with which Dorotea assumes her role as Princesa Micomicona and weaves a tale of necromancy and adventure (I, 30, 373-374) suggests that she very well might have had some familiarity with romance. In every instance, however, including that of Dorotea, worldly occupations frame or enclose recreation reading, no matter what the precise nature of that reading may be. We should note, however, that in Dorotea's case, work, the management of her father's estate, is not only the frame of recreational reading. It also forms part of a tradition going back to the ancient world in which the «free» time of women is simultaneously a kind of productive labor associated with domesticity (in Spain the housewife's traditional profession of «sus labores»), in this instance sewing, embroidery and weaving. Consequently, Dorotea is exceptional on both accounts. Her recreational reading, at least the kind to which she is willing to admit, is devotional, and work both frames her leisure and, in the purely domestic sphere, fills most of her otherwise unoccupied time.
Discourse is supposed to provide the second frame, or so the humanists and moralists of the time believed. Early modern humanists conceived of recreational reading as surcease not only from more ordinary kinds of work but also from occupations which required constant traffic with books: law, medicine, theology, historical and philological studies, etc. Consequently, recreational books had a rightful place, although not necessarily a prominent one, in the libraries of learned men. We may take Francisco de Araoz's De bene disponenda bibliotheca, published in 1631, as a representative example of the status of recreational reading in the context of a real and ideal library.
Like his French contemporary Naudé's Advis, Araoz's De bene disponenda bibliotheca is a treatise on how to organize a library. The library in question is both real and ideal. On the one hand, it was intended as an ideal model, a broad and harmonious picture of Christian and humanistic learning. But on the other, it was based on the perfectly real collection of perhaps the greatest Spanish —20→ bibliophile of the first half of the seventeenth century, Lorenzo Ramírez de Prado (Entrambasaguas I, vii-xxxv; Rodríguez Moñino 13-20; Sánchez Mariana 50-5113). The treatise is divided into fifteen chapters or praedicamenta. These include a chapter on grammars and dictionaries, one on rhetoric, both theoretical and practical, as well as a chapter on profane history, both true and fabulous, and another on profane poetry, including dramatic poetry. As regards the last two categories, profane history and poetry, there are other praedicamenta in which their sacred analogues find their rightful place. Araoz's well-furnished and properly organized library has a chapter on geometers, musicians, mathematicians, and astrologers. And, there is still another on natural philosophy -what we would call natural science- agriculture and medicine. In addition, he has a chapter on moral philosophy and another on politics and the law, and a separate one on Church law, another on Church history, still another which includes scholastic theology, and so on.
What Araoz's ideal library does not have, of course, is a section
on «literature», because in the discursive taxonomies of early
modern Europe there is no such thing, or rather, «literature»
denotes all the disciplines that we associate with Renaissance humanism. Thus,
by way of an example, when Erasmus of Rotterdam writes that
Lutherism is dominant the study of literature is extinguished», he
does not at all give an aestheticizing or belletristic twist to his word
(Huizinga 178). He means that Luther's doctrines are inimical to
the entire range of humane letters, in sum, that they are uncivil.
«Literature», then, has very different meanings for early modern
Europeans on both sides of the religious divide than it does for us, for, as
Claudio Guillén has remarked on the meaning that we today assign to the
What, then, does Araoz do with the kinds of writing that for no more than the last two centuries we have classified as literary? His chief concern in this regard is poetry and his most important generic distinction is between the sacred and the profane. Thus, profane poetry of every kind and dramatic verse are to be found in the fifth praedicamentum, while the fifteenth and last praedicamentum brings together books on the Mass, sacerdotal duties, rites, etc., as well as a section de poetis spiritualibus.
However, the pages of De bene disponenda bibliotheca that most concern us are those of the Quartum Praedicamentum, the chapter devoted to profane historians, «De Historicis profanis veris & fabulosis». It is here, in the four pages on «fabulous historians» as distinct from «true» ones, that we encounter works for the sorts of idle readers invoked in the 1605 prologue of Don Quixote. In this chapter, as in every one, Araoz provides a short list of works by way of illustration. The list of «fabulous histories» is as follows:
|Floresta Hispana, & alii multi (Fol. 9)|
It is in these pages alone that the author eschews precise references to particular authors and titles. Elsewhere, for example in the early part of the chapter, in the pages devoted to historici veri, he provides rather precise references to authors and titles, albeit in Latin translation. For example, in a subheading of the section on «true historians» which bears the title De regnis in particulari, he refers to Mariana's Historia general de España and Zurita's Anales de la corona de Aragón in the following way: Ioannes de Mariana de Hispano, and Didacus (sic) de Zurita de Regno Aragonio. When it comes to the fabulosi, however, he employs language that in nearly every instance is —22→ allusive and, as in the first title's play on día and Diana, ludic and conceptista. No doubt he feels that he can allow himself a moment of playfulness because here he is alluding to books that contain no lasting truth, unlike works on scholastic theology, canon law and Zurita's annals of the kingdom of Aragon. Still, it is not terribly difficult for a reader conversant in early modern Spanish letters to discern in his list of «fabulous histories» references to Montemayor's Diana, the Celestina, Lazarillo de Tormes, Espinel's Marcos de Obregón, as well as Cervantes' Novelas ejemplares and Don Quixote. Less familiar today is the last title in this list, a volume compiled by Melchor de Santa Cruz de Dueñas, the Floresta española de apothegmas o sentencias, sabia y graciosamente dichas, published in Toledo by Francisco de Guzmán in 1574. There were numerous printings of this work from the princeps to 1716, along with a continuation by Francisco Asensio, first published in 172814. The Floresta interests us because it was a miscellaneous collection, in this case of apothegms, a genre much favored by Spanish Erasmists and used to great effect by Cervantes in El Licenciado Vidriera. Miscellanies of every kind, especially collections of jokes, witticisms, apothegms, etc, and potpourris such as the Silva de varia lección, Pero Mexía's hugely popular compilation of prêt-à-porter humanism first printed in Seville in 1540, were a key category of entertaining books.
Miscellanies were not, however, the most important category. That honor was reserved for the remaining books by «fabulous historians» on Araoz's list. Today we would say that these are works of narrative fiction, although the Celestina would give us pause because it does not fit comfortably into the generic pigeonholes that have constituted the foundation of our idea of literature since the mid-nineteenth century. It is that discomfort which should cause us to meditate on the usefulness of applying our genre systems retroactively to a historical reality in which they did not and could not exist. In the period when Cervantes wrote his novels and Araoz his prescriptions for the well-furnished library, the novel as a genre did not exist (Blasco 44-45). There was no single and broadly agreed upon category in the taxonomies of the time, no unified discursive field that could encompass, in addition to the works in Araoz's list, —23→ the Amadís, La lozana andaluza, Diana enamorada, the Persiles, Los cigarrales de Toledo, etc. To make the same point in another way, Cervantes' own prose fiction -the Galatea, Don Quixote, the Novelas ejemplares, and the Persiles- belonged to four distinct classes of books at the time Cervantes wrote them. There was no genre for these books, and Araoz's «fabulous histories» are not so much a genre as the improvised recognition that these kinds of books were not readily categorizable. What Araoz has done, simply, is to invent a subset within the classification that could be found in early modern Aristotelian poetics -history. Thus, in a jerry-built fashion, he manages to preserve poetics and assimilate to it a series of discursive practices which did not seem easily categorizable.
Nonetheless, his «fabulous histories» do belong to a category, although it has no real place in early modern poetics or taxonomies of knowledge. They are all «libros de entretenimiento», and Cervantes, discussing his own work, uses the expression in the 1615 dedication of Part II of Don Quixote to Lemos:
|(II, «Dedicatoria», 39)|
«Los de entretenimiento» were the kinds of books that Cervantes thought he wrote when he was not writing dramatic verse, and rather than constituting a genre, they were recognized as having a social function, what Montaigne called «honneste amusement». Thus, in Don Quixote, when Don Diego de Miranda, the Caballero del Verde Gabán, discusses his own library, he tells us that
|(II, 16, 153)|
Don Diego's library is organized according to language -Latin and Spanish- and theme -histories and devotional writing. He prefers profane books to sacred ones, and consequently «historias» written in the vernacular. But his preference, like Montaigne's, is especially for books which provide him with «honesto entretenimiento», and —24→ that delight him with their language and astonish him with their invention. We are not, then, on the terrain of Zurita's Anales or of Mariana's Historia general, for there is no invention in these works and no need to astonish the reader. They are true rather than fabulous histories, that is, according to Aristotelian poetics, they are based upon actual events rather than possible ones. The books Don Diego frequents are of a kind with Araoz's list of «historici fabulosi». And it is one of Don Quixote's lovelier self-referential ironies that Don Diego believes there are few such books in Spain, for Cervantes uses that judgement as a delicate way of suggesting that the book in which Don Diego is a character just might be one of them.
The books that Araoz lists and that Don Diego reads may not have a separate taxonomic classification in the early seventeenth century, but they obviously do have a function. Araoz states, referring to their authors, the historici, that
The priest, humanist and moralist places these books in a context of higher studies, as well as work and other obligations which weigh heavily upon us (alijs curis & laboribus oppressos). But it is especially revealing, and very typical of early modern moralists, that recreational reading should take place within the context of, and in effect be framed or enclosed by, higher and more serious works and that the former properly may be read only when the spirit is fatigued (animos hominum superioribus studijs fatigatos). In this view, Araoz has a very great deal of company. As B. W. Ife observes in his study of early modern narrative and Christian humanists' opposition to it,
Ideally, then, it is men, and only men, and only learned men, who should read these books, and only when they require surcease from study and other cares, and only because they are exemplars of an imperfect humankind.
Don Diego is nearer to the moralists' norm than Don Quixote, for he reads recreational books between other occupations, including attending to his affairs and is, in every way, a model of equilibrium, although the same cannot be said for his son, the poet. Even the harvesters in I, 32, who «read» -are read to aloud15- in Juan Palomeque's inn are closer to it, for if their spirits are not fatigued from higher studies, their bodies certainly are from toil in the fields. Although they are not the model readers of recreational writing that Araoz had in mind, their traffic with books takes place within the social frame of labor, in this case physical labor. Like Juan Palomeque and his household, as well as Don Diego, albeit in a very different way, they are «desocupados lectores» of the kind the 1605 prologue invokes. They are temporarily idle and fill their idleness with books that provide them with entretenimiento of an enormously pleasurable kind, even though not all the books the harvesters «read» would find a place in the Caballero del Verde Gabán's library.
If they and other characters conform in some fashion to the category of «desocupados lectores», it is clear that Don Quixote does not16. On the contrary, everything that the hidalgo does with books —26→ tends to break down and ultimately destroy both the social and the discursive frame that humanism had constructed to contain recreational reading. The social frame cannot contain him because he has so thoroughly abandoned his habitual occupations -the hunt and the administration of his property- that he does nothing but read. His books have become his sole occupation to an extent, and with consequences, that we have already seen. The first is that he alienates his patrimony or a substantial part of it -the most immediately productive part- in order to buy books. Following the purchase of his library, and in the course of reading, he enters into a dialectic of identity and alterity in which he, a Castilian hidalgo of whose surname the fictional historian is uncertain enough to give us four possible versions of it -five if we count Alonso Quijano- becomes Don Quixote.
The breakdown of the discursive frame, on the other hand, is both
less obvious at first glance and has consequences that are very far reaching.
With no more than a single possible exception, Dr. Andrés Laguna's
Dioscórides Anazarbeo, Don Quijote's
library is composed entirely of recreational books and of these, the most
important for him are the kinds that Araoz calls «fabulous
histories», or, to be precise, books written by «historici fabulosi». Further, there is no
trace in the library of miscellanea, collections of apothegms, of proverbs and
of witticisms which, along with fictional narrative, constitute the bulk of
early modern recreational books. As I have shown elsewhere, there is no
precedent in early modern Castile for the kind of library that Don Quixote has
assembled, no library composed chiefly, much less exclusively, of recreational
books (Baker). Thus, it cannot reasonably be argued that Don Quixote's readings
conform to one of the definitions of «entretenimiento» found in Covarrubias'
Tesoro de la lengua castellana and in the
Diccionario de Autoridades, and that most
closely corresponds to the kinds of books meant by the expression
«libros de entretenimiento».
«qualquier cosa que divierta
o entretenga al hombre, como el juego o la conversación o la
lección». Don Quixote's library manifestly is
something other than a pastime. An activity assimilated to the status of
conversation and games is not what Don Quixote does in, and with, his library.
Reading for him is something of immeasurably greater heft, depth and
This is evident in the single instance where Don Quixote speaks of his library. Cardenio has just related to him Luscinda's delight at reading the Amadís, and he tells Cardenio that, along with the latter —27→ he should have given her Don Rugel de Grecia, which he is certain would delight her.
|(I, 24, 297)|
In this context, what the mad knight errant means by
«entretenimiento» is another,
very different definition that also can be found in Covarrubias, as well as in
Diccionario de Autoridades. The former gives
«Entretenido, el que está
esperando ocasión de que se le haga alguna merced de oficio o cargo, y
en el entretanto le dan alguna cosa con que
sustentarse». This sense is adumbrated in
Autoridades, which devotes nearly two whole
columns to «entretener» and
the words derived from it. Here «entretenido» is
«el que está esperando ocasión de que se le haga
alguna merced de oficio u cargo, y en el entretanto le dan algunos gages con
que pueda sustentarse».
Gages are stipends, emoluments of one sort or
another and in this sense, «entretenimiento» is an occupation, however
temporary, although Don Quixote takes this sense and, in effect, absolutizes
the temporary. In addition, «entretenimiento» is an
«ayuda de costa, sueldo y merced pecuniaria que se da para ayuda
de mantenerse al que ha servido y al que se le ha esperanzado de conferirle
algun empleo u exercicio, y acomodarle». Thus,
«entretenimiento» is the
«sustenance», in this case the money, that a servant of whatever
category receives while awaiting a lord's favor, and as Don Quixote himself
states, his books are his spiritual, rather than pecuniary, sustenance.
But the word can also connote a life's work and its dutiful
pursuit, as in the passage
Autoridades provides from Pedro
Fernández de Navarrete's
Conservación de monarquías:
«Los reyes han de buscar sus mayores
entretenimientos en el despacho de sus
negocios». This meaning conveys a sense of occupation
and duty, which, along with the joy they provide his soul and the sustenance to
his life, is precisely how Don Quixote sees his books. Thus, unlike the
temporarily leisured readers who entertain themselves reading with the ulterior
purpose of returning to their habitual occupations, he understands himself to
be the kind of reader whose life is dedicated in its entirety to the kinds of
books that, by the standards of the time, should not and could not conceivably
sustain a life. Saint Thomas,
yes, the world of Greco-Roman
antiquity, fine, not to mention devotional readings. Books of every sort, both
sacred and profane, on ancient and modern themes, without doubt, but
Amadís de Gaula, Don Rogel de Grecia,
and every other chivalric romance ever printed in the Castilian language over
nearly a century's time? Surely not, for what by these standards is so mad
about Don Quixote's madness is that he reads the latter with the perfervid love
of learning and devotion to truth, not to mention the patience and attention to
detail, that humanists and scholars properly devoted to the former. Simply put,
he is a full-time reader of what supposedly are part-time books.
Don Quixote concludes the characterization in I, 24, of his
«más de trescientos
libros» in an wistful tone,
aunque tengo para mí que ya no
tengo ninguno, merced a la malicia de malos y envidiosos
encantadores». In this he is more than half right, for
the books truly are gone, consigned to the flames following the inquisitorial
scrutiny (Gilman) to which the priest and barber subjected them in I, 6.
Following the scrutiny, but not as a result of it, for in fact it is ultimately
the housekeeper, that is, socially the
least qualified of the four people in
attendance, who decides quite literally to clean house and burn
cuantos libros había en el corral y
en toda la casa...» (I, 6, 123) . So
much for the barber's opinions and the priest's fine distinctions. Once the
books have been burned, the library itself, the room in which they had been
kept, is walled up:
|(I, 6, 123)|
The madman's friends have done what they can to separate them from the source of his madness but it is too late, for Don Quixote's library has in effect been imprinted upon him and when next he sallies forth he bears that imprint. Here, the tale effects a reversal of the inward movement that began with the hidalgo's abandonment of his habitual occupations, the purchase of his books and the creation of a special room -the library- where he could commune with and read them. Narrative movement now turns outward and in Don Quixote's second and definitive sally the text of the library goes forth into the world. It is that text which has been set loose, never again to be enclosed, and the knight errant has become the sole bearer of a unique text; we could say that he has become a text errant, —29→ simultaneously the subject and object of literature (Baker). Thus, in Don Quixote the frame of discourse that early modern Christian humanists and moralists constructed to contain recreational reading has not simply been broken, it has been destroyed. In consequence, print made flesh, however dessicated, and flesh made print, though mere entertainment, go forth in dialectical synthesis to narratize the world.—30→
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