Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prompt 2 and Don Quixote

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is quoted in Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote as having been edited by Pierre Menard in Chapter 9 and 38 of Part 1 and a fragment of Chapter 22 in Part 2 (Page 90).The representation of Don Quixote meshes well with Pierre Menard because even in the forward by the true author Jorge Luis Borges, Pierre Menard the story is described as the story’s “unreality lies in the fate the story’s protagonist imposes upon himself” (Page 67). This fate is that in the story Pierre Menard, Menard’s work is criticized as being ridiculous and copying off other’s work. Menard claimed that his purpose was to not recreate another’s work, but to simply add to it so that both works can be read together without ever discerning where one author ends and the other’s work begins. In Pierre Menard, Menard believes that historical truth is what one believes what happens and not what actually happened (Page 94). By writing like that, it makes even boring books an adventure because one is not sure who actually wrote it (Page 95).

This brings us to Don Quixote by Cervantes. Much like Pierre Menard’s vision, Don Quixote, the main character in Cervantes work, sees what he wants to see. So his history and his life is not what it actually is, which is just an older gentleman, but he sees himself as an adventurer, as a solider, and as a defender of the people who are being wronged in the world. Towards the end of the story, Cervantes opens his story up to the possibility that the story itself is actually a retelling of a Moor name Cide Hamete’s story. With this twist, as in Borges’ Pierre Menard, one is not actually sure who wrote the story which makes it even more of an adventure because there is the possibility that the reason it is unsure who wrote the story is that it might be based on actual events which makes it even more exciting.

The parts of the story of Don Quixote that are mentioned in Pierre Menard were again Chapter 9, 37, and a fragment of 22. The quotations are fitting because in Chapter 9, Cervantes writes into his story about the historical account of the previous encounter and displayed his irritability over this. By writing first that this is based on historical records sort of reaffirms what Menard described as a truth being what ones believes and not what is actually happening. In Chapter 37, the same theme is throughout as he believes that a low status woman is a princess and will not listen to the reasoning of his overseer Sancho. Finally, in Chapter 22 there is a commonality to Menard and a character in the book who rewrites classics of the time as Menard has rewritten the very book that he has added a chapter to.

Could these passages be read as though Menard’s story is correct and the story of Don Quixote as we know it has these few lines and stories of Menard littered throughout it, or did Borges actually create this story out of those very passages? Seeing as Menard is a work of fiction, the most probable solution is the latter, but as Menard did say, truth is what you believe happens and who you believe wrote it and not what actually happened or who actually was credited with writing it.

1 comment:

  1. This comes dangerously close to reading as the summary of an argument, rather than the argument itself. Saying that, I'm thinking mainly of the third paragraph, where you are doing the heart of your work - thinking through significance of the particular chapters which Menard is writing. I think your initial framing of the overall significance of three chapters is fine; I also think that your understanding of Menard as a whole (1st paragraph), and of the Quixote as a whole in reference to Menard (2nd paragraph) are fine. But all of them are abbreviated; this is most obviously the case in the 3rd paragraph, though, where you deal only with the absolute bare bones of the chapters as a whole, without any attention to their language (even though Borges lavishes attention there).

    I'm not saying that you're wrong, or heading in the wrong direction, even, at any point in this essay. It's just that it's really minimalistic - so much so that you don't include any kind of evidence for your positions (although they all sound good!), nor do you really even go so far as to explain which one(s) you find more important.

    In other words: as a summary of a set of ideas, this is good. But any revision would need to first establish some priorities, and then do real, detailed work with the texts.