We live in an age
of sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and rip-offs. Success invites
repetition aimed at finding and maintaining special formulas to
recreate the triumphs of the past. Not surprisingly, the victories
tend to be defined more in commercial than in aesthetic terms. A
recent collection of essays, entitled Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel and
edited by Paul Budra and Betty A. Schellenberg, starts with Homer
and ends with Hollywood, or more specifically -and fittingly- with
The Terminator. My focus
here will be on two early modern examples of the sequel, from
Spain. Between 1599 and 1615, the writers Mateo
Alemán and Miguel de
Cervantes were players in literary dramas built
around, respectively, picaresque narrative and Don Quixote. These
dramas were important as defining moments in the lives and in the
art of the two authors -important to a great extent because they
blurred the distinction between life and art. Curiously, and most
engagingly, the well-known appearance of a false second part of Don
Quixote -wedged between Cervantes's two parts- was preceded by an
analogous intrusion into Mateo
Alemán's Guzmán de Alfarache. It
One could describe the drama to which I have been alluding as a play in three acts and an epilogue: the establishment of the picaresque genre, the adventure of Guzmán de Alfarache and its sequel, the adventure of Don Quixote and its sequel, and the future course of the novel, as influenced by these phenomena. I will incorporate that figurative play into this paper, which will attempt to look at the «big picture» of the novel, namely, at the shift from satire to the novel and the shift from the novel to the metanovel, which combines narrative and critique.
mode finds a prototype in the anonymous 1554 narrative, Lazarillo de Tormes.
Working against -deconstructing- idealistic fiction,
features a first-person account of a marginal, unexemplary life.
Unlike the characters in pastoral, chivalric, or sentimental
romance, Lázaro grows physically
and psychologically in the course of the narrative. There is a
discernible causal structure, a clearly delineated relation between
process and product. Asked to explain «the
case» -essentially his status in society and the scandal that
threatens him- Lázaro
offers a response that is part autobiography, part social
commentary, and part defense: in sum, a
If I were asked to name what I consider to be the most remarkable and innovative aspect of picaresque narrative, I would say that it is the dialectics of discourse that informs the texts. A commanding authorial figure -Wayne Booth's «implied author»- competes with the first-person narrator for control of the signifying systems- for control of the «last word.» While we cannot see the author, we can sense his presence. He is the puppeteer, and the pícaro is his puppet, which would make the ironic subversion of the discourse his strings. The implied author is master and superego; the pícaro, trickster and id. Antisocial conduct cannot be rewarded, according to the protocols of this time and place, but the subversion of the discourse is itself subverted by the centrality allotted to the pícaro and by the criticism aimed at a corrupt society. And by full-fledged picaresque subjects, complex and rounded characters, who manage to move beyond the literary ventriloquists who invent them.
At one of the
earliest possible points in the evolution of the picaresque -the
prologue to Lazarillo
de Tormes- one can note a distinction between text and
pretext, between a book in the marketplace and the explanation of a
«case.» This is, of course, the
distinction between the author and the narrator. Manipulation of
the narrator's discourse by the author ironically decodes and
recodes the messages
Obviously, it takes a minimum of two texts to comprise a genre, or subgenre. Lazarillo de Tormes and Guzmán de Alfarache, published forty-five years apart (exactly fifty, if one counts the second part of Guzmán), feature pseudo-autobiographical narration by mature men who recount their lives-men who have sought upward mobility in a rigidly hierarchical and inflexible society. Their illusion of control on the social plane is mirrored by their illusion of control on the narrative plane. Their arguments, intended as defensive, are often incriminatory. Guzmán de Alfarache is about ten times the length of Lazarillo de Tormes. Guzmán's narrative alternates between episodes of transgression and so-called moralizing digressions, so that the reader must judge whether the sermons have been inserted in order to justify the low humor or whether the low humor has been inserted to make the sermons more palatable, that is, whether entertainment is at the service of edification, or viceversa. (Alemán seems to anticipate the polemics of interpretation by composing two prologues, the first to the vulgar public and the second to the discreet reader.) The brevity of Lazarillo de Tormes brings a type of elliptical complexity to the text. Guzmán de Alfarache operates in precisely the opposite fashion. The narrative is overdetermined; it presents opinions on all manner of things, and the anonymous author of Lazarillo is replaced by Mateo Alemán, who seems to have some difficulty differentiating his bitterness and anger from his character's.
The anonymity of
Tormes places the narrator against an abstract author and an
indeterminate biographical context. The same cannot be said of
Mateo Alemán or of
Francisco de Quevedo, in
The movement from
satire to the novel is enacted in the prologue to Part One of
Don Quixote. As Daniel
Eisenberg and other critics have argued, the prologue «clearly states» the objective of the book:
«to destroy the base machinery of the
romances of chivalry.» This is correct, and the statement
underscores the satirical nature -as well as the Counter
Reformational thrust- of the text. What the approach fails to
consider, however, is the context -and the staging- of the
commentary. The prologue dramatizes the challenges to authority by
the new print culture. The players are a fictionalized Cervantes and a «friend» who enters to advise him on the
writing of a prologue. The resulting meta-prologue flaunts its
divergence from precedents,
Cervantes acknowledges the self-fashioning of picaresque narrative while expanding the field of reference. He appears to cede control to a corps of narrators and surrogate authors, and to alternate storytelling with metacommentary on the process of composition. The «something else» beyond satire is marked by variations on the themes of perspectivism, perception, and the limits of writing. The vision is realistic, but not in the sense of eighteenth -and nineteenth- century literary realism, because Cervantes «lays bare the devices of art» and because he values the place of literature as a visible presence within the world. Truth, history, madness, social identity, the interplay of past and present, acts of framing, modes of writing, and the consequences of reading are among the topics that he highlights, always in unique ways. The picaresque underscores the shaping of the self and circumstances of the protagonists -and the reshaping of their stories to conform to the narrators' agendas. Cervantes takes this template and converts it into baroque art. This is Stage One of our scenario: the transit from satire to the novel and the incipient metanovel. Stage Two, motivated by several instances of malicious mischief, accentuates the reciprocity of life and art.
If Lazarillo de Tormes
foregrounds the fictional defense, Guzmán de Alfarache finds its ruling
temper in the dichotomy legitimacy-illegitimacy. «Bad blood» determines society's treatment of
Guzmán, who nonetheless
pursues his kinsmen in Italy. He suffers unbearable humiliation in
Genoa, whence he makes a hasty departure -embittered yet powerless
before his fate. Legitimacy eludes him at
The means by which
Mateo Alemán distances
himself from Guzmán de Alfarache and Cervantes distances himself from
Cide Hamete Benengeli contribute to the irony and to the
metaliterary (and socio-historical) depth of the texts. On numerous
would seem to cross the line that represents detachment by blending
his voice and his frustrations with Guzmán's, but the
professed Old Christian author above all wants to separate himself
from the conspicuously New Christian character. Analogously,
Cervantes's invention of the
Arab chronicler widens the gap between an absolute, idealized -and
unrealizable- form of historiography and the fabrication that
underlies every act of interpretation. Don Quixote is also a
significant Other, a purely literary object, an object of ridicule,
the antithesis of flesh-and-blood humanity. One could suppose that
the distancing devices would be, if anything, more
In 1602, there appeared in Valencia a Second Part of the Life of the Pícaro Guzmán de Alfarache by Mateo Luján de Sayavedra. The narrative continues Guzmán's story in Rome and Naples, and then back to Spain, to Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, and Valencia. The protagonist undergoes further mortification, disastrous love intrigues, and time in jail, and finally he is sentenced to the galleys. Guzmán ends with an allusion to his escape from the galleys and with the promise of a third part. The text contains digressions, intercalated tales, and considerable padding, most notably perhaps in a long proof that the Spanish kings and queens descended from the Goths. The Luján sequel can by no means be considered a magnum opus, but it serves as catalyst for the crowning achievement of Mateo Alemán. There is speculation that Luján may have stolen part of Alemán's manuscript. What is certain is that he entered a private and sacrosanct space within the realm of art. His intervention not only enrages Alemán but distracts him from the crafting of his own second part. When the «real» second part is published in 1604, its debt to the false sequel is unconcealed. Alemán's personal response may be filled with venom, but his artistic response is ingenious, calculated, and effectively -and hyperbolically- vindictive. His second part includes an allegory of the literary theft -the robbery of Guzmán's baggage- along with the killing off of a Guzmán imitator (named Sayavedra) and the exposure of the pseudonymous author, Juan Martí. (See McGrady 113-29 and Kartchner on the rendering of the theft.) Guzmán avenges the mistreatment by his Genoese relatives through an elaborate deception, and the intensity of his anger -and, one could surmise, his creator's- is palpable. The element of injustice -present in Part One- arguably becomes the dominant motif of Part Two. Alemán reinscribes Guzmán's victimization with an empathy that is missing from Part One. In fact, he misreads Part One -while accusing Luján/Martí of doing so- by stating that the usurper did not understand that he was endeavoring to portray a «perfect man,» as opposed to a scoundrel. Nevertheless, the competition between Guzmán and Sayavedra has no spiritual dimension and negligible moral impetus. The victor is the craftier, the fitter, the more picaresque, so to speak.
Alemán's Guzmán concludes with
the protagonist's religious conversion. He is persecuted as a
prisoner in the galleys, but he informs
It seems logical
to surmise that a major factor in the success of Alemán's narrative is its
entertainment value. The lower-class subject as the object of humor
will have had its appeal, in an atmosphere that has been compared
to carnival or to saturnalian inversion, to the world turned
upside-down. Misadventures and antisocial behavior can amuse the
reader or listener, who also will take note of the order restored
at the end (here, through the conversion). Alemán follows a
tradition of negative exemplarity, which includes the fourteenth-
century Libro de buen
amor, whose didacticism stems from examples
The success of Guzmán the novel has to do with transgression -in word and deed- diverting but never sanctioned. The Luján/ Martí sequel pushes the historical Alemán into the foray. Justice, vengeance, and the struggles of the individual reach higher levels in the «true» second part, where the author's love-hate relationship with his character -his own identification and repulsion- grows. Guzmán's conversion opens the floodgates of ambiguity and provides a center ripe for deconstruction -as do, correspondingly, the focus on the infanta Margarita in Velázquez's Meninas and the illumination of Alonso Quijano in Part Two of Cervantes's Don Quixote. The more we sense the presence of Alemán in his narrative, the more metafictional Guzmán de Alfarache becomes -and, paradoxically, the more metahistorical. The inner workings of the novel are not divorced from history but are interdependent with events in the real world. Guzmán de Alfarache is suggestive, unpredictable, meaty, and deceptively open. In a sense, Alemán does not cope well with the invasive sequel, but the aggressive defense of his intellectual property energizes and frames the narrative. Cervantes can learn, positively and negatively, from his example.
Alonso Fernández de
Avellaneda's continuation of Don Quixote may have been inspired by
Cervantes's criticism of the
theater of Lope de Vega in
Chapter 48. Whatever his motives, Avellaneda wounds Cervantes with the timing of the
sequel and with an ad
himself in the prologue to the 1615 Quixote, which concludes with a promise
to leave Don Quixote dead and buried, in order to ward off further
imitations. It is generally believed that Cervantes had written about
two-thirds of the second part when the «false» sequel
was published and that he did not make extensive revisions in these
chapters. Crucial features of Part Two would, then, already have
been in place before the appearance of Avellaneda's book: the
incorporation of a critique of Part One, the response to critical
commentary, the inclusion of characters who have read Part One and
thus know the knight's modus operandi, an increasingly shrewd
Sancho Panza, and the implicit
rivalry between the «real» Don Quixote and his
counterpart on the written page. The «other» second
part does, however, disrupt the narrative flow, but in
serendipitous ways. Cervantes's
tongue-in-cheek «true history» is now
the true history, or at least the true story (one and the same in
Spanish, «la verdadera
historia»), which makes Cide Hamete Benengeli
the true historian and ally of the author. Don Quixote has the
chance to visit a printing establishment and to leaf through
Avellaneda's sequel. Cervantes undoes his own
foreshadowing by rerouting Don Quixote and Sancho away from Zaragoza, but they do meet
Don Álvaro Tarfe -an
invention of Avellaneda- who
certifies before a notary that the man who stands before him is the
authentic Don Quixote. There are signs that Cervantes may have envisioned a
third part, in which the knight and the squire remove themselves
from the world of chivalry in order to enter the world of the
pastoral, but Avellaneda's
text animates him to seek closure. The moment of truth -the
disillusionment- of Alonso Quijano
is spiritually sound but somewhat inconsistent with what has
From the opening of the text -the prologue to Part One, presumably written last, and Chapter 1, presumably written first- Cervantes offers new insights into the dialectics of reality and fiction and of history and poetry. The acquisition of Sancho Panza as a partner in dialogue functions as an analogue of the continuous dialogue with the literary and theoretical past. Cervantes anticipates Hayden White's ground-breaking essay, «The Historical Text as Literary Artifact,» by setting forth «the literary text as historical artifact.» The fundamental dialectical play in Don Quixote may be the writer's use of perspective and the reader's skills at perception. While Avellaneda's sequel shakes up an already volatile mixture of elements, Cervantes's response to the intrusion is more «natural» than Alemán's. Unlike Alemán, in the position of having to defend a pícaro, Cervantes does not have to invert his premises to speak of Don Quixote's superiority over his rival. He expresses his personal disappointment only in the prologue, and wisely plots the defense in Part Two around Don Quixote rather than Cide Hamete. Although he makes the Arab historian more prominent in Part Two (see Mancing 182, esp. 196-97), Cervantes can speak through Don Quixote, and Don Quixote can speak on behalf of the «legitimate» author. All of Part Two deals with the reciprocity of world and text, and with the interchangeability of macrocosm and microcosm. Avellaneda spurs Cervantes to heighten the interrogation of the potential of the written word and its ties with questions of authority. The intertextual conflict -the desire to supersede precedent, which now encompasses chivalric romance, other genres, Part One, and the «false» Part Two- is synonymous with the creative impulse.
sequels to Guzmán de Alfarache and Don Quixote lead to a redirection of
the «genuine» continuations. A search for closure
results in problematic happy endings: revenge and conversion in
Guzmán and an awakening
from madness and a spiritual release in Don Quixote. Along with a series of
hardships, failed marriages, punishment for crimes of various
sorts, the ill-fated reunion of Guzmán with his mother,
and the time in the galleys, Alemán inserts the
allegory of the robbery, the revelation of the identity of the
author, and the breakdown of Sayavedra, who leaps from a ship to
his death crying, «I am the ghost of
Cervantes approaches character -and most other aspects of narrative- through textuality, a synthesis of the structure of experience and literary design. His extreme self-consciousness, matched by Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy, substitutes metafiction for strict idealism and realism, and serves as a paradigm for the self-referentiality of modernism and postmodernism. Don Quixote capitalizes on the recourses of literature to go ever deeper into -and farther beyond- the text. Cervantes's determination to come to terms with Avellaneda's sequel enhances the interplay of themes in Don Quixote, among them truth, history, the imagination, and forms of representation. The publication of Part One places Don Quixote at the mercy of his historical self, the hero of a book, who robs him of his active nature and robs him, as well, of a reading public unfamiliar with his record. The readers within Part Two take over the directorial duties that once were within the purview of the knight errant. Thanks to the spurious Don Quixote, the «real» knight can defend himself with renewed vigor. The intersection of life and art has a seamless quality in Part Two, as exemplified in the sequence of episodes in Barcelona, where Don Quixote enters society, peruses Avellaneda's continuation, and encounters a Spanish-Moslem former neighbor whose tribulations are the stuff of history and of romance.
muchcited phrase, «the anxiety of
influence,» refers to the confrontation between the
individual writer and the forebears who must be surpassed, and
suppressed. Creation is emancipation from the shackles of
tradition. In their first volumes, Alemán and Cervantes initiate a war against
the intertext, but Luján/Martí and
Avellaneda give them new animus,
new ammunition, and new targets. When Sayavedra jumps overboard in
Alfarache and when Don Álvaro
Tarfe legally denounces the imposter in Don Quixote, the anxiety is reified.
The novel as a genre exhibits a special kind of self-awareness,
often manifested as reaction, rejoinder, or rebuttal. As the novel
develops, it becomes its own
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