It is very probable that there has never been a novel so loved by so many people as the first: Don Quixote. Everyone has their favourite adventure (the most famous being the Don’s sally to vanguish the giants-windmills), but for me, the most precious part is the moment when the narrative is abruptly interrupted and the two heroes disappear. I’m talking about the magical chapter IX.
Like the eternal regression caused by standing in front of a mirror with another mirror behind you, in this peculiar section Cervantes invents the discovery of the novel that he himself is writing. The author’s personality is thus lost in a vortex of ironic voices. If you have read Quixote you probably remember how the action is suspended in the middle of a battle while the supposed author of the first part of the first book has to go to a market in Toledo to discover the manuscript that reveals the continuation of the plot. This book, which we are told is the real account of Don Quixote’s adventures, is written in Arabic and has to be translated, which it is, by a nameless scribe, and we are soon told that the real author of the book we are reading is not really Cervantes at all, but a certain Arabic historian, Cide Hamete Benengeli. It is precisely this laberynth of voices that fills the book with the complexity that makes it still interesting today. And it will always stimulate curiosity as long as there are readers capable of losing themselves in its delicious irony.
Recently I heard someone comment that this was a very Borgesian trick, while being a most puerile and illogical statement, is so ridiculous that it has something ingenious about it…
That same night I had a dream that I was called Jorge by everyone that I met and that therefore, I deduced, I had become a man. Then when I tried to look at myself in a mirror to confirm this fact I realised that I was blind, although sometimes I could see perfectly. I was given a white stick which I had to use to ward off objects that came hurtling at me. This gave me the sensation of being blind even when I could see. As the experience in the street was so terrible I stayed at home, next to my desk, where I felt safe and started to write this essay. Suddenly, absolutely inspired, I began to scribble some lines in Spanish: “En un lugar de La Mancha de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme…” and then wrote reams and reams of script, all of which I have now forgotten.