OpenFiction [Blog]

Metafiction – Rereading Cervantes

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on October 6, 2005

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So I’m rereading Don Quixote, this time a wonderful new translation by Edith Grossman that my wife bought me. I’m wondering if there becomes a point in one’s life at which you stop learning new things, and simply relearn the things you’d once known before. For instance, I’d forgotten that Cervantes and Shakespeare died on the same day. A bleak day for literature, to be sure.

The whole book (if you’ve not read it) pokes fun at the books of chivalry popular in Cervantes’ time, and so is very metafictional as a whole, but I’d (also) forgotten the wonderful metafictional elements included in Chapter IX, where the telling of the history of Don Quixote is interrupted in mid-battle, and Cervantes describes how the “history” from which he as narrator has been recounting the tale stops. He then explains to the reader how he came across an Arabic version of the tale, which he has translated. He goes so far as to blame any errors in the telling on this fictional translator (which must have been an interesting passage for Grossman to translate). In this one passage, Cervantes pokes fun at books of chivalry, reminds the reader of the artifice of the narrator, and points to the hidden hand of the translator (probably more so for readers actually reading the book in translation). All this, and still maintains a story that is a delight to read.

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  1. Anonymous said, on October 14, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Steve,
    In my freshman writing class, we recently read Tim O’Brien’s How to Tell a True War Story and discussed its metafictional qualities, among other things. In explaining what metafiction is, I used the example of Olivia’s Winnie the Pooh book where the narrator steps in, tilts the words on the page and allows Tigger to slide down the letters to safety from the tree in which he’s stuck. My students came up with some good ones including Kill Bill Vol 2, certain episodes of The Simpsons, etc. Do you think our favorite show, Scrubs, could be described as metafiction, or is it really doing something else?


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