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"Don Quixote is a lunatic at times full of lucid intervals"

28 Abril - 2021

How would life be lived according to the books? The historian Gonzalo Pontón has proposed this question as one of the possible lines of interpretation of "Don Quixote". "Cervantes builds a novel full of allusions to a literary universe, with characters obsessed with reading and living their own existence in conflict between reality and what literary molds allow them to experience," he said.

These were the first thoughts of the webinar "Don Quixote: the obsession with literature", organized by the Culture Program of the UPF Barcelona School of Management in collaboration with the Institut d'Humanitats. "Don Quixote is a comic book, which makes you laugh, but which maintains a constant and tenacious presence of literature," said Pontón, who recalled that, above all, it represents "the chivalrous novel par excellence".

According to the historian, in the 16th century chivalric literature "constitutes a literary genre of its own". With it everyone can live historical, warlike and amorous adventures, he said, and added: "that is why I am not surprised that these books are the ones that Hidalgo, impoverished, burns at the stake", since, deprived of all his powers, "he can only live the idealized adventure through reading".

Between real and imaginary

In this line between reality and the literary, between the fictitious and the invented, the protagonist of the novel also walks. But is Don Quixote a "lunatic" or is there something else behind him? In Pontón's words, "Don Quixote is a madman full of lucid intervals". However, the "maturity" of his character comes through the long conversations with Sancho, his squire.

Precisely on the originality of the second part of the work, a shadow of doubt is dispelled.Is Cervantes its author? In 1614 the supposed continuation of the first volume was published, but it did not come from the original author, but from Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, who, as Pontón has noted, "was "somewhat maliciously dismissive of the true author".

The novel includes as many interpretations as fashions, trends and years separate us from its creation.

Gonzalo Pontón, historian

Faced with a possible bad reaction, Cervantes responded "admirably" and included this version in his second part. "It is a more articulated and meditated work, with greater cohesion," said the historian who, however, admitted that "all the discoveries are found in the first one".

Despite the fact that after "Don Quixote" no more chivalric novels were printed, the work has survived more than four centuries and remains the greatest work of Spanish literature."The novel includes as many interpretations as fashions, trends and years separate us from its creation," commented Pontón, who concluded: with Don Quixote, "the possibility of the marvelous always remains open".

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