I thought I’d get the ball rolling by posting my thoughts on the Prologue to the first book of Don Quixote. I must say I was very impressed by how much business Cervantes took care of in these casual few pages. Using the conceit of advice from a “friend,” he is able to state his purpose (“an invective against books of chivalry”), expose the fraudulent means by which authors give the appearance of weight to their works (sonnets, allusions, quotations, annotations), and he introduces us to the main characters, Don Quixote (who is described as if entirely real) and Sancho Panza (who is described as if entirely fictional). The latter point interests me because I gathered from Bloom’s introduction that it is Quixote who is out of touch with reality and Panza who is the more grounded one. I also wonder if the Latin quotations which are supposedly given off-hand will be relevant later on? Considering how much work the rest of the Prologue does, we might do well to keep an eye on them.

I especially love how Cervantes addresses his audience: “Idle reader.” Perhaps he was poking fun at the hidalgos, the lower nobility who abhorred gainful employment as beneath them, no matter how poor they were. Because of that non-work ethic, Spain lacked a productive industrial economy, its agriculture was backward, and monarchs had to declare bankruptcy repeatedly. If it weren’t for the influx of New World gold and silver, Spain might have been a primitive backwater instead of the dominant force in Europe. Some in Spain, called the arbitristas (“projectors”) were aware of this and tried to advise reforms, but the monarchs were more interested in fighting wars.

As I said, I was very impressed by the Prologue. At the risk of sounding Bloom-ish, I think we are in for a work of genius here.

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