Cervantes in the Middle: Realism and Reality in the Spanish Novel from Lazarillo de Tormes to Niebla, by Edward H. Friedman.
Every narrative text will, in some form or another, tell a story. The narrator’s (or narrators’) input into that story will be meaningful in itself. That is, the act of storytelling contains its own story. The reader, then, will note two processes that occur simultaneously: story and discourse, the narrative events and the form of expression that gives structure to the action. Ultimately, the two elements should be contemplated in unison, as part of a dialectical relation between story and discourse.
From the mid-sixteenth century, the Spanish picaresque novel moves realism forward, but the reader is also conscious of the act of narration, of the “self-fashioning” of the narrator/protagonist. This subgenre is key, because not only does it underscore the psychological progression of the lead character, but it also combines the intersection of realism and metafiction that will continue in the early seventeenth century in Don Quixote and, to greater or lesser degrees, in all forms of the developing novel. Don Quixote makes us aware of the process of literary creation by foregrounding readers and writers. In the “process,” he manages to cover the big picture, dealing with issues such as history and historiography, truth, and human nature. What starts out as satire ends up as an exceedingly knowing and precocious model for the novel—and specifically as a model for experimental narrative.
Cervantes in the Middle examines Don Quixote as a continuation of a narrative phenomenon highlighted in the picaresque and continued in later novels. The study explores approaches to the representation of reality, and the play of realism and metafiction, using as examples the unique depiction of the real world in Galdós’s El amigo Manso and Unamuno’s Amor y pedagogía and Niebla.
Series: Documentación cervantina «Tom Lathrop», 26
ISBN 978-1-58871-091-8 (PB) $45.