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16 / 06 / 2004
Carmen Bobes: Don Quixote is the first really free character

Experts on the work of “The Quixote” have analyzed the characteristics that have made Cervantes’ novel a symbol of modernity

Carmen Bobes Naves, from the University of Oviedo, explained that the characters in the Quixote are complex. Bobes emphasized, “the vision of the world in the Middle Ages was geocentric while in the Quixote a more anthropocentric vision emerges”. “The novelist sees the world from the perspective of Man, humanism leaves Man anchored in his own limitations”, said the professor. In the view of Bobes, Don Quixote “is the first really free character and his narrator raises doubts in the minds of its readers”.

Anthony Close, professor from the University of Cambridge, spoke of how the Quixote has been converted into a modern novel. Close explained that Cervantes invented “a flexible novelistic formula that contains the confrontation between the hopeful perspective of Don Quixote and reality: resulting in a blend of empathy and irony”. In this sense, Cervantes sets this quixotic point of view in opposition to the real world which corresponds with the historical world. For Close, the success of this formula, “was not the product of chance but rather that it coincided with various aspects amongst which is something that E. Heller called the disowned mentality of modernity”. This mentality includes the loss of faith in the established union between spiritual learning and nature: between the quest for certainties and scientific knowledge. It was from here on that the German romantics consecrated the Quixote as the first modern novel. In addition, Close touched upon certain later views on the work such as those held by Gregorio Mayans, Martín de Navarrete and Ortega y Gasset.

José María Pozuelo, from the University of Murcia said, “the Quixote cannot be read as something Carnivalesque”. “The Carnival has not so much spectators as revelers”, remarked Pozuelo. Don Quixote has gone from being the object of parody to the subject creating parody at certain points in the work. What prevents the Quixote from being a parody is that its author gives it moments of wisdom and in addition is aware of its folly.

The writer from Madrid, Alejandro Gándara, explained that the novel of the Quixote does not recognize the atrocities of the past or those of the present. In this sense, he said, “the novel is a tale without an historical context, written by an author with no authority”. For Gándara, the greatest legacy of Cervantes to the novel is an ethic of writing”. He went on to say, “novels don’t give us more authority but they do give us greater responsibility”.

Teodosio Fernández, professor from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, talked on “The Quixote and Latin American literature”. Fernández referred to Jorge Luis Borges who declared, “Cervantes has a lot of shortcomings but he does succeed in transmitting an inexplicable magic”. Fernández emphasized Borges’ voyages towards certain mentalities in order to discover Cervantes, among these being: South America, Scandinavia and Germany.