Don Quixote: The Origin of Metafiction

April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of British playwright William Shakespeare, and various commemorative activities are already being planned around the world. Compared with the brilliance of the great Shakespeare, the equally great Spanish novelist Cervantes (1547-1616) seems a little dim, although they both died on the same day, the so-called “but the same day”. However, if Cervantes is a little less coquettish than Shakespeare, Don Quixote is no less than Hamlet, or any of Shakespeare’s images, and its significance and influence are even greater than that. and.

Cervantes’ novel “Don Quixote” has been widely circulated around the world since its publication. The novel has so far been translated into 54 languages ​​and published more than 2,000 editions. It is one of the most translated, published and reviewed books in the world. The famous German theorist Auerbach wrote in his book “The Theory of Imitation”: “Over the centuries, especially since the Romantics, people have read from his books many things that he hardly expected or did not know at all. something to consider. This kind of reinterpretation and overreaching of an old work is often very fruitful: a book like Don Quixote takes its own life apart from the author’s intentions; When I like it, it shows a new face.” A novel is separated from its author, grows and develops itself, and shows different faces in different times. In the context of recent postmodern pluralism, Don Quixote has another face: the face of “meta-fiction”.

The so-called “meta-fiction” is “a novel about novels”, that is, “a discussion of its own nature and the status of novels through literary texts”. “Metafiction is fiction about fiction: fiction concerned with the fictional identity of fiction and the process by which it was created.” The term was first used by American author William Garth in 1970’s Fiction and Characters in Life, Its general meaning is “a novel about how to write a novel”. This kind of novel mainly appeared in Britain, France, the United States and Argentina after the 1960s. The main feature of metafiction is its resistance to and dissolution of the novel itself, and it constantly presents itself as a work of fiction. Metafiction authors often have multiple identities, such as narrator, protagonist, and author. Because metafiction writers have a clear understanding of their own fictionality, they often integrate a critical perspective into their novels, which confuses the boundaries between literary criticism and the object of criticism, so that the object itself has a critical function. An important technique of metafiction is that the work is within the work, and the text is within the text. The fictional behavior of the fictional world has constituted the story and served as the structural function of the novel, so that the story itself has an inherent independence from the real world. Metafiction shatters traditional reading expectations with indeterminate, subversive narrative modes, abolishing the boundaries between serious and trivial, horror and comic, tragedy and comedy. The writer often cuts into the novel suddenly with an unbridled attitude, conveys the crisis consciousness of contemporary novel creation with cynical cynicism and gloomy humor permeated with nihilism, and shakes and changes the traditional concept of novel with an adaptable creative attitude.

It is generally believed that the earliest meta-fiction was The Biography of Xiang Di by the British writer Stern (1713-1768). However, this work is 150 years later than Don Quixote. British contemporary scholar Margaret A. Ross points out: “The use of parody by ancient writers such as Aristophanes and more modern writers such as Cervantes shows that, both in ancient and modern times, parody has always been based on ‘ Metafiction and comical forms reflect on other writers, the process of parodying one’s own writing and the reader. Even before Cervantes’ Don Quixote, we had The Tale of Mr. Topas, which is A story written by Chaucer in the 14th-century Canterbury Tales, it is also one of the most complete literary portraits of the author as a parody, self-parody, and reader’s satire.” In a sense, Metafiction is parody.

Regarding the meta-fiction features of Don Quixote, I think it is mainly reflected in the following aspects:

The line between literary fiction and reality is blurred. In the preface of the novel, the author wrote: “Leisure readers, this book is the child of my mind”, and the author “with a piece of paper in front of him, a pen in his ear, his arm resting on the desk, his hand on his cheek, struggling thought” out. In the ninth chapter of the first part of the novel, the author suddenly interrupts the normal story narration, which has what Brecht called the “distancing effect”, and the novel uses the first-person narration instead:

One day, I was in the Algana market in Torred. A child came running up and sold some old manuscripts and manuscripts to a silk merchant. I love reading books…recognize that it is written in Arabic. Although I can recognize it, I can’t understand it, so I want to find a Moor who is familiar with Spain to translate for me… I happened to find one. I explained my requirements and gave him the book… I heard him mention it. The name Dulcinea del Toboso was astonishing; immediately guessed that these manuscripts contained the story of Don Quixote. I thought so in my heart, so I urged him to read the opening paragraph to me. He translated the Arabic into Spanish according to his words, saying that this is “The Biography of Don Quixote de la Manche”, the author is the Arab historian Cid Ahmed Benanheli. When I heard the title of the book, I was so shy that I didn’t show happiness on my face. I snatched the deal from the silk merchant and paid half a riel for all the manuscripts and manuscripts of the child…I immediately took the Moor out of the market and into the corridors of the cathedral. I asked him to translate into Spanish all the parts of the manuscript that speak of Don Quixote, without additions or deletions.

Thus, the narrator can continue to tell the story. In the second part of the novel, a scholar named Samson says to Don Quixote: “Cid Ahmed Benanhaly wrote a book of your great deeds . . . The authors of the book have worked tirelessly to translate this Arabic story into Spanish so that everyone can enjoy it.” “At least 12,000 copies of this biography have been published… In the future, every country and every language will be able to There is a translation.” Here, the narrator of the novel makes up an Arabic author, and the narrator also makes up a Moor to translate the story from Arabic into Spanish. Although the Moorish translator is skeptical of the fifth chapter of the second volume (which consists of a dialogue between Sancho and his wife, Sancho decides to follow Don Quixote on his third trip, this time as a doge). So he planned to marry his daughter to a certain earl, but Sancho’s wife firmly disagreed) it was a fake, “but the translator did his due diligence, or just translated it”, and added some comments. This is the so-called reflexivity of the novel (constantly manifesting itself as a work of fiction, reflecting on the basic structure of the novel itself, and the conditions of the fictional world outside the novel). The novel is fictional, but the protagonist of the novel, Don Quixote, is fascinated by reading knight novels, and regards fantasy as reality, and the popularity of knight novels was a social reality. It seems that the fiction of fiction is reality, and the reality in fiction is fiction. In Chen Zhongyi’s view, this seems to confirm the so-called “novel comes from the East”, and “Don Quixote” is derived from the Arabic story “Karilai and Dimuna”.

The boundary between novel creation and literary criticism is blurred. Characters in novels often talk about literature, novels, about other characters in that novel. Talking about novels in novels is like writing works within works. In the first part of the novel, when the priest and the barber inspect Don Quixote’s study, many books are discussed, chief among them the literature of chivalry. They also discussed Galate, a pastoral saga written by Cervantes in his early years. “This Cervantes is an old friend with whom I have a deep friendship. I think he is more troubled than talented. There are some novel imaginations in this book. The beginning is good and the ending is still pending. You should wait to read his preview. The second part of the novel.” Novelists discuss and evaluate their own novels in novels, which is the beginning of meta-fiction.

The themes and characters of the novel are vague and indistinct, with uncertainty. For example, about the protagonist of the novel, the novel first wrote: “Our gentleman is almost fifty years old and has a strong physique. He is thin, with a clear face, gets up early every day, and likes to hunt. It is said that his surname is Jihada, another It is said that it is Jisada, but the records are different, and by deduction, it is probably Jihana. But this is irrelevant in this book, we will mainly tell the truth of the story without losing the truth of the story.” When Lu Xun created the image of Ah Q, he was probably inspired by this. influences. And at the end, Don Quixote said on his deathbed: “I was a madman, but now I am clear; I was Don Quixote de la Manche, and now I have said, I am The good man Alonso Gijano.” Who the protagonist was, turned into a mystery in the end.

Facing the often said and often new “Don Quixote”, Kafka, a famous Jewish writer in the 20th century, also has something to say. He once rewrote the story of Don Quixote. This little novel is called “The True Biography of Sancho Panza”, and the full text is as follows:

Sancho Panza – who, by the way, never boasted about his achievements – used the twilight and night to tell a lot of stories about knights and robbers for several years, successfully making his devil – he later gave it Named “Don Quixote” – so unreasonable that this devil later did many very absurd acts for no reason, but these acts lacked a predetermined goal – the goal should have been Sancho Pan Sand – so it didn’t hurt anyone. Sancho Panza, a free-spirited man, followed this Don Quixote with aplomb—perhaps out of a sense of duty—and, throughout, had great and useful pleasure in it.

In Kafka, it was not Don Quixote who persuaded Sancho Panza to be his entourage, but Sancho Panza who created Don Quixote. As Don Quixote’s first reader, Sancho witnessed and exposed Don Quixote’s absurdity, and thus became Don Quixote’s greatest tragedy. According to Bloom, the contemporary American literary theorist, Kafka’s fable “recounts that Sancho reads all the chivalry stories in one sitting, until his imaginary patron saint, the personified Don (Quixote), with He took risks along the way. Kafka may have changed Don Quixote into a long, bitter Jewish joke, but it was also more faithful to the original than Auerbach interpreted it as pure joy.” Ka Fuca “has praised Sancho’s character, and at the same time believes that the greatest tragedy of Don Quixote is not due to his imagination, but to Sancho Panza, who is in sharp contrast with him”. In short, Don Quixote is just a story created by Sancho. The German philosopher Benjamin has a section in his essay “Franz Kafka” called “Sancho Panza”. Benjamin believes that Kafka found the law of his own itinerary, and he reconciled the extreme rapidity of it with the slow pace of the narrative. “He wrote this experience, and it is his most perfect work, not just because it is an interpretation.” This work is “Sancho Panza True Biography.” So it seems to be possible to say that Don Quixote inadvertently also created Kafka.

Since the 17th century, Don Quixote has traveled almost all over the world. The author Cervantes wrote in the second dedication of the novel: “The one who is most anxious to wait for Don Quixote to go is the great emperor of China. He sent a special person to send a letter in Chinese a month ago, asking me to— Or it could be said that he begged me to send Don Quixote to China. He wanted to set up a Spanish language academy, and he planned to use Don Quixote’s stories as textbooks; he also asked me to be the dean. I asked the commissioner if His Majesty the Emperor of China asked him to send me a fee. He said he never thought of this.” So Cervantes had to give up. Nowadays, China has already changed its dynasties, and there is no great emperor, but it is an indisputable fact that Don Quixote came to China. Various foreign language colleges have established departments of Spanish language and literature, and the story of Don Quixote has become a textbook. Cervantes predicts a reality through fiction, the so-called language precedes reality, which is also one of the characteristics of metafiction.

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