Denison University, Class of 2000
The arrival of two recent additions to the already sizable number of editions of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's Quijote begs the question, «Will we ever see an end to such new editions?» The answer, of course, is a resounding «no.» Unlike most previous editions of Don Quijote, however, those of Tom Lathrop (Juan de la Cuesta Press) and Salvador Fajardo and James A. Parr (Pegasus Press) have a specific reader in mind -namely, the non-native American reader. The following brief commentary seeks to compare and contrast these two editions and to address the question, «Are such editions necessary for the non-native, undergraduate American reader?» As one such reader who recently had the pleasure of reading Don Quijote for the first time, I discovered that selecting the proper edition for my reading level was a considerable undertaking -and an extremely important one, at that. Thus this commentary focuses on my concerns in differentiating between editions in an effort to provide different readers the edition that will be the most beneficial to their experience with the novel.
The first noteworthy difference between the Lathrop and Fajardo-Parr editions lies in the underlying texts that are used. Lathrop chose to base his text primarily on the Schevill-Bonilla edition, a text that he calls «conservative.» Since the Schevill-Bonilla edition is an old-spelling edition, Lathrop then was forced to modernize many of the spellings in order to make the work accessible to the modern reader. But he did not modernize all spellings. According to his introduction, he would «modernize spelling only when that spelling doesn't affect the pronunciation of the word... Where modernizing the spelling would affect the pronunciation, [he] made no substantial changes» (x). Thus, assí would be changed to así, but ansí is not changed to así. Lathrop addresses this subject and makes some other, more general grammatical notes in his introduction and, as he wisely notes, «[s]ince not everybody will read this introduction, the notions mentioned here are glossed or footnoted as well» (xiii). Fajardo and Parr, meanwhile, chose to employ the John Jay Allen (Cátedra) edition with its largely modernized and regularized spellings as their primary text. They do note that this text, «aunque generalmente modernizado, mantiene aspectos de la lengua cervantina que pueden a veces hacer tropezar a los lectores» (xviii) and their solution is to include a «prontuario de gramática» in the introduction in addition to explanatory footnotes in the text.
The result of
these particular choices is that the reader unfamiliar with the
lengua cervantina may spend more time reading the notes in the
margin in the Lathrop edition than he or she would looking up
footnotes in the Fajardo-Parr
edition. To demonstrate how this plays out, consider the following
two examples, both from Part I, Chapter 28. In the first, both
texts chose to use «se
asconde» in the body of the text, and both
annotate it as «se
esconde.» In the second, the Lathrop text chose
to include «estraordinarios» in the
body of the text with the note «extraordinarios» in the
margin; Fajardo-Parr chose to forgo the
annotation and simply included «extraordinarios» in the
text. While this is no doubt only a minor difference, over the
course of Don
Quijote several hundred unnecessary glances to the margin
can easily become distracting. Along with the different choices of
texts, each edition deals with some of the more common
controversies surrounding Don Quijote in its own way. Neither text corrects
error when he incorrectly computes that nine times seven is
seventy-three; both simply include a note of explanation about the
controversy. The loss of Sancho's
donkey, however, brings about decidedly different interpretations.
Lathrop believes that Cervantes meant
to omit this
Aside from these minor points concerning punctuation, spelling and grammar that the use of different texts causes, the most notable difference between the Lathrop and Fajardo-Parr editions is the use of English in the former versus Spanish in the latter. Lathrop's introduction is almost entirely in English, as are all definitions and footnotes. (Notably, Lathrop chose two styles of annotations: brief definitions of terms in the margins and longer translations of passages in the footnotes. The Fajardo-Parr only uses footnotes.) The Fajardo-Parr edition, by contrast, is entirely in Spanish. Up to three synonyms are provided for difficult words; on occasion, a difficult passage is clarified by a short explanation. Generally speaking, however, the Lathrop edition tends to spend more time on definitions and footnotes -be they extended translations of passages or cultural, historical, mythological, etc., allusions- than the Fajardo-Parr edition.
Thus we are left
with the question, «Which of these texts
is more appropriate for the American undergraduate reader?»
The answer is that it depends upon the level of the reader. It is
highly unlikely that the truly average undergraduate Spanish
student would have the ability to read Don Quijote in Spanish no matter
what edition he or she were given, for the sheer volume of
vocabulary necessary for the undertaking would prove too daunting.
The above-average student, however, can attempt to tackle
and the best choice for this student is the Lathrop edition, for
several reasons. First, the definitions and footnotes in the
Lathrop edition are quite exhaustive, thereby catering to the needs
of the above-average student whose vocabulary might not be as
developed as that of the good or very good reader. Second, English
headings at the top of each page facilitate the location of key
events for future reference. Third, and perhaps most importantly,
the general use of English in the Lathrop edition -and the
inclusion of the Don
Quijote Dictionary for additional support- is perhaps the
key to making Don
Quijote more accessible for the above-average reader.
Don Quijote is
a rather intimidating text for an undergraduate student, and by
using English, Lathrop is able to provide some security for the
reader who may doubt his or her abilities with the language. (After
all, virtually all
The good to very good Spanish student would also do well using the Lathrop edition, but he or she might benefit more from the Fajardo-Parr edition. With a more extensive, developed vocabulary, the good student might easily become overly distracted by the many annotations in the Lathrop edition. Difficult words are still defined, this time in Spanish, thereby helping to build vocabulary by forcing the student to continuously think in the language. Because of this, reading the Fajardo-Parr edition is a slightly more ambitious project for more ambitious students. The exceptional student, meanwhile, should feel free to choose whichever edition he or she desires, depending primarily on his or her confidence in the language.
The exceptional student with an outstanding vocabulary should not be discouraged from selecting the Allen or Riquer (Planeta) editions, as they need not be distracted by the vocabulary annotations in the Lathrop and Fajardo-Parr editions and can focus instead on more important footnotes. Exceptional students with less confidence in their vocabularies should probably be guided in the direction of the Fajardo-Parr edition, since the reliance entirely on Spanish will help to improve any perceived deficiencies in vocabulary that they believe they have.
From the above argument, it appears that the answer to the question first posed -«Are such editions necessary for the nonnative, undergraduate American reader?»- is a resounding «yes.» The arrival of the Lathrop and Fajardo-Parr editions have certainly helped to make Don Quijote more accessible for the reader who otherwise might have been overwhelmed by the extensive vocabulary that Cervantes employed in his masterpiece. Who knows -perhaps undergraduate readers will no longer have to purchase Don Quijote in Spanish and the English translation simply to understand what is happening! In any event, both the Lathrop and the Fajardo-Parr editions give many more «idle readers» at different levels of language development the opportunity to read Cervantes' immortal classic in its original Spanish than were previously able to do so. Provided that these readers do not take this novel as literal, objective history or as a «guide for living,» Cervantes would not have wanted it any other way.