LA ZONA FANTASMA

A MONTHLY COLUMN

by Javier Marías
“RUN, CERVANTES, RUN!”

During his lifetime, Miguel de Cervantes was the victim of one of the most infuriating offenses known to writers: the appropriation of his characters by another person, the unwarranted manipulation of his inventions, the desecration of his creation. As many people may already know, an apocryphal Part Two of The Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quixote de la Mancha appeared on the Spanish scene in 1614, signed by someone who called himself Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, though his true identity continues to elude us to this day. There is little doubt, however, that Cervantes knew perfectly well who hid behind the mask of Avellaneda, and yet he refused to do him the honor of revealing his identity, for that would only have allowed the charlatan to enter into posterity. Instead Cervantes merely alluded to him, crestfallen but blasé, in the prologue to the real Part Two of his great novel, which was published a year later, in 1615. One wonders if Cervantes felt inspired to finish it posthaste just to set the record straight regarding Avellaneda’s theft and chicanery, because on top of mucking around with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Avellaneda also attacked their creator, calling him an old one-armed fool. As it turns out, he was only a precursor to the contemporary copycat, a figure we are all familiar with: the more they imitate and exploit someone else’s achievements, the more they attack and silence him. It must be an insufferable feeling to know that you have so great a debt to someone whose talents are so vastly superior to your own.

Translated from the Spanish by Kristina Cordero

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Javier Marías was born in Madrid in 1951. English-language translations of his novels include All Souls, A Heart So White, Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, and the short story collection When I Was Mortal.

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