Bestseller Imposters
November 13, 2002 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Cervantes no not THAT Cervantes silly, THIS Cervantes wrote the first half of Don Quixote in 1605. The popularity of the world's first novel was so great that an impostor book was published chronicling the continued misadventures of the Don Quixote and Sancho, so scandalously in fact that Cervantes himself had to write a second half ten years later which ends (SPOILER) with the death of Alonso Quixano and the end of all further tales. Now it seems some 400 years later its happening to our young Harry Potter!
posted by Pollomacho (27 comments total)
Not only is this really old news, but it's a double post
posted by Raichle at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2002

the first novel.
posted by callicles at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2002

Could have been a good post if the Harry Potter bit had been left out. :-)
posted by oissubke at 2:30 PM on November 13, 2002

possibly not, but it sure has a lot of emphasis as a theme of the post. And, i don't think that I could possibly stand another discussion about Harry Potter!
posted by Raichle at 2:35 PM on November 13, 2002

in 1605. The popularity of the world's first novel

I thought the world's oldest novel was the Tale of Genji, written about 600 years earlier.
posted by moonbiter at 2:38 PM on November 13, 2002

Well then you don't have to talk about Harry Potter do you?
posted by Pollomacho at 2:39 PM on November 13, 2002

This world's first novel, The Tale of Genji, was written by Murasaki Shikibu. To relegate this to Cervantes or Boccaccio is laughable.
posted by four panels at 2:43 PM on November 13, 2002

you could have at least searched on the topic a bit.
posted by Raichle at 2:47 PM on November 13, 2002

Ancient Greek Novels
posted by RavinDave at 2:49 PM on November 13, 2002

oissubke: apparently not, if the rest of the info is so blatantly incorrect as well.

Always beware "the world's oldest..." type comments. There will always turn out to have been something older.
posted by Raichle at 2:53 PM on November 13, 2002

my favorite version of the Quixote was written by Pierre Menard.

This world's first novel, The Tale of Genji, was written by Murasaki Shikibu. To relegate this to Cervantes or Boccaccio is laughable.

why is that laughable? i'm with callicles. it is traditionally taught that the european idea of a novel (we are speaking of the English word, "novel," no?) came from the term "novella" -- Italian. ergo Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron.

sure, googling on worlds+oldest+novel will get you some mentions of Shikibu. but i think you could argue much older texts than that if you broaden the criteria to mean "long, many-chaptered stories." you might as well talk about the Odyssey, then. it's all a matter of opinion.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:23 PM on November 13, 2002

Read Don Quixote online.
posted by four panels at 4:51 PM on November 13, 2002

Homer: This is my quest. I'm like that guy. That Spanish guy.
You know, he fought the windmill...
Marge: Don Quixote?
Homer: No, that's not it. What's-his-name, the Man of La Mancha.
Marge: Don Quixote.
Homer: No!
Marge: I really think that was the character's name. Don Quixote.
Homer: Fine! I'll look it up!
posted by planetkyoto at 5:04 PM on November 13, 2002

Since nobody's paying attention to RavinDave, I will expand on his laconic reference and point out that novels were being written in Alexandria and other parts of the Greek world over two thousand years ago, making latecomers of both Shikibu and Cervantes. Here's a detailed description of the plot of Daphnis and Chloe, one of the better-known ones, but there are plenty more where that came from. (And come on, wouldn't you like to read a novel whose synopsis includes "Although Daphnis thinks he must get back to his goats, a great party is immediately set in motion..."?)
posted by languagehat at 5:54 PM on November 13, 2002

Boccaccio kicks ass.
posted by rushmc at 6:41 PM on November 13, 2002

The ancient greek movements are a little short too be considered novels, I'm afraid, despite what Heidegger thought of them.
posted by four panels at 7:24 PM on November 13, 2002

So Duras's The Lover isn't a novel? Candide isn't a novel? Miss Lonelyhearts? How long or short can a novel be? If it isn't focused enough to be a short story (as we usually think of them), I call it a novel.
posted by languagehat at 7:42 PM on November 13, 2002

Don Quixote is commonly considered to be the first modern novel. Although I seem to be misdunderstanding this whole story about there being an imposter writing the story. I always assumed it was just Cervantes who was pretending to have someone write the second half of the book.
posted by ookamaka at 9:20 PM on November 13, 2002

No, actually the "first" second-half of the Quijote was supposedly written by one Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda. Unfortunately for Don Quijote it is considered one of the most disgraceful performances in all of literature.

According to José Ortega y Gasset, it was, "wholly lacking in originality and stylistic grace, it is an utter betrayal of a great work, filled with vulgarities and obscenities of which Cervantes would never have been guilty, while the characters of Don Quijote and Sancho are debased beyond recognition. In addition, it contains a vicious personal attack against the original author, in the course of which his crippled hand-to him a glorious example of his heroism in the battle of Lepanto- his old age, and his poverty are held up to ridicule. Who the real perpetrator of this outrage, and what his motives were, are questions that have as yet not been answered".

Cervantes wrote the "real" (and brilliant) second half some 10 years later and killed off poor Don Quijote so as to avoid further false works.

However, the joke about multiple authors is present throughout the real books where Cervantes claims to be only a translator of a book written by an Arab ,Cide Hamete Bengali, and so there are a lot of games played with references to the "author", narrator, Cervantes, Bengali etc.

This is a brilliant novel, one of the funniest and still most modern novels I have ever read. It works on so many levels that it falls into that rare category of book that you should read at least three times in your life: as a child, in your prime and again as a wizened older person. As you and your world change your reading of the book will transform it into something entirely different each time. This is one of the meanings of Borge's short story "The Quijote by Pierre Menard".

Actually I am actually slightly annoyed that this masterpiece is mentioned in the same breath as something so banal as Harry Potter. Forget Harry Potter, read this book, read this book to your children.

Read Literature.
posted by sic at 3:16 AM on November 14, 2002

nov·el n.
1. A fictional prose narrative of considerable length, typically having a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters.

2. The literary genre represented by novels.

I think this is what is meant by the term novel. By that standard, the Decameron would be a series of novellas, but I suppose that is debatable, as would be the definition of the what is called the Greek novel, almost a group of novella all on its own. Further debatable would be the writing style of Genji, I am at a loss in that I cannot read Japanese much less classical Japanese, a courtly and purely literary language, is this not verse? Anyone?

Now as for Harry Potter being drivel, I may agree with you in that the content is certainly not on par with Cervantes or any other classical literature, but it has a fantastic merit in that children for the first time in a long time are excited about reading these books and there is nothing that can convince me that is a bad thing. Hopefully Harry Potter can be the "gateway drug" that lures children into reading more things including Genji, Daphnis and Chloe, Quixote, etc. as they grow up. For me it was the C.S. Lewis Narnia series that lead me on to more weighty literature, not that they were great works of classical literature, but they were good lures anyway!

Well, I should admit I suppose, that I put the "world's first" part in there to troll a bit, I know that's a vastly debatable point! Please forgive me, but it does seem to have worked!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:20 AM on November 14, 2002

Yeah... admitting that you intentionally manipulated Mefites. There's the way to win friends and influence people around here.
posted by crunchland at 8:03 AM on November 14, 2002

Well, it was just a tiny troll, I was really interested in the articles and the response. So I suppose you're above all that then, eh?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:37 AM on November 14, 2002

pollomacho: the discussion was/is stimulating & enlightening. Don't be downhearted, you lightly trolled, and are now being lightly flamed [if I wasnt a veggie, i'd actually recommend pollo be thoroughly cooked (",)]
posted by dash_slot- at 9:03 AM on November 14, 2002

Oh, I know, I'm cool with that, say what did happen to that enlightening discussion?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:16 AM on November 14, 2002

i enjoyed the conversation, pollomacho.

here's an interesting and concise essay on 'the novel' from the Columbia Encyclopedia.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:10 AM on November 14, 2002

A pretty well done essay, _sirmissalot_. They fudge the origins issue by defining their subject as modern European novels and calling everything else "precursors," but that's OK with me. Where they lost me was: "If Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1865–69) is a God-centered novel, Feodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866) can be considered a God-haunted one." Right, and if I'm Marie of Rumania, Feodor Dostoyevsky is living in Peoria.
posted by languagehat at 12:33 PM on November 14, 2002

well i myself am just a big fat Idiot.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 12:46 PM on November 14, 2002

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