Sunday, September 18, 2005

Barnell illustrates a scene taken from Avellaneda's Don Quixote: Quixote prances about the room in armor he claims was forged by hand by hell's blacksmith while Sancho cowers in fear behind the furniture. No wonder Cervantes felt compelled to lambast the fake edition:

"But tell me, Senora, [said Sancho] and may heaven find you another lover more tenderhearted than my master, what did you see in the next world? What's it like in hell? Because whoever dies in despair is bound to go there."

"To tell the truth," responded Altisidora, "I probably didn't die completely because I didn't enter hell, and if I had, I really couldn't have left even if I'd wanted to. The truth is I reached the gate, where about a dozen devils were playing pelota, all of them in tights and doublets, their collars trimmed with borders of Flemish lace and cuffs of the same material, exposing four fingers' width of arm so that their hands appeared longer, and in them they were holding bats of fire, and what amazed me most was that instead of balls they were using books, apparently full of wind and trash, which was something marvelous and novel; but this did not amaze me as much as seeing that, although it is natural for players to be happy when they win and sad when they lose, in that game everybody was grumbling, everybody was quarreling, and everybody was cursing."

"That's not surprising," responded Sancho, "because devils, whether they play or not, can never be happy, whether they win or not."

"That must be true, " responded Altisidora, "but there's something else that also surprises me, I mean, surprised me then, and it was that at the first volley there wasn't a ball left in play that was in condition to be used again, and so they went through books, new and old, which was a remarkable thing to see. One of them, brand new and nicely bound, was hit so hard that its innards spilled out and its pages were scattered. One devil said to another:

'See what book that is.'

And the other devil responded:

'This is the second part of the history of Don Quixote of La Mancha, composed not by Cide Hamete, its first author, but by an Aragonese who is, he says, a native of Tordesillas.'

'Take it away from here,' responded the other devil, 'and throw it into the pit of hell so that my eyes never see it again.'

'Is it so bad?' responded the other one.

'So bad,' replied the first, 'that if I myself set out to make it worse, I would fail.' And they continued with their game, hitting other books, and I, because I had heard the name of Don Quixote, whom I loveand adore so passionately, did my best to keep this vision in my memory."

"It must have been a vision, no doubt about it," said Don Quixote, "because there is no other I in the world, and that history is already being passed from hand to hand but stops in none, because everyone's foot is kicking it along. I have not been perturbed to hear that I wander like a shade in the darkness of the abyss or in the light of the world, because I am not the one told about in that history. If it is good, faithful, and true, it will have centuries of life, but if it is bad, the road will not be long between its birth and its grave."

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