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Cervantes in Algiers

A Captive's Tale

María Antonia Garcés

Publication Year: 2002

“[Highly recommended] not because it gives a personal picture of prison life . . . or because it bolsters a *new* theory of *trauma criticism* . . . [but] because it accomplishes something that is greatly needed among Hispanicicists, which is to say that it gets out of the fiction into the real world in which it was produced.” --BHR (2003:3) Returning to Spain after fighting in the Battle of Lepanto and other Mediterranean campaigns against the Turks, the soldier Miguel de Cervantes was captured by Barbary pirates and taken captive to Algiers. The five years he spent in the Algerian bagnios or prison-houses (1575-1580) made an indelible impression on his works. From the first plays and narratives written after his release to his posthumous novel, the story of Cervantes's traumatic experience continuously speaks through his writings. Cervantes in Algiers offers a comprehensive view of his life as a slave and, particularly, of the lingering effects this traumatic experience had on his literary production. No work has documented in such vivid and illuminating detail the socio-political world of sixteenth-century Algiers, Cervantes's life in the prison-house, his four escape attempts, and the conditions of his final ransom. Garcés's portrait of a sophisticated multi-ethnic culture in Algiers, moreover, is likely to open up new discussions about early modern encounters between Christians and Muslims. By bringing together evidence from many different sources, historical and literary, Garcés reconstructs the relations between Christians, Muslims, and renegades in a number of Cervantes's writings. The idea that survivors of captivity need to repeat their story in order to survive (an insight invoked from Coleridge to Primo Levi to Dori Laub) explains not only Cervantes's storytelling but also the book that theorizes it so compellingly. As a former captive herself (a hostage of Colombian guerrillas), the author reads and listens to Cervantes with another ear. "The significance of this book is enormous, as it is the first to chronicle Cervantes's five-year captivity in Algiers as both a traumatic and creative event. Cervantes's major novel, as he himself reminds us in the prologue to part one of Don Quijote, was 'hatched in a prison.' Garcés's book will open up new avenues not only for rethinking the connections between trauma and captivity, but also for questioning the complex relations between Christian Spain and Islam in early modern times."-Diana de Armas Wilson

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Illustrations

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pp. ix-

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xvi

THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN during the difficult period of mourning that followed the death of my beloved son Álvaro José, my firstborn and closest interlocutor. It is ironic that a book on the effects of trauma on Cervantes, one planned before the fatality that took my son’s life, ended up being composed in the midst of what may be the worst of traumas: the...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-14

RETURNING TO SPAIN AFTER FIGHTING in the Battle of Lepanto and other Mediterranean campaigns against the Turks, soldier Miguel de Cervantes was captured by Barbary pirates and taken as a captive to Algiers. The five years he spent in the baños [prison houses] of Algiers (1575–80) left an indelible impression on his work. From the first plays and...

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1. The Barbary Corsairs

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pp. 15-65

MANY CRITICS HAVE ALLUDED to the marks left on Cervantes’s thoughts and works by his North African captivity. “Fue el más trascendental hecho en su carrera espiritual” [it was the most transcendental event in his spiritual career], says Américo Castro, referring to this catastrophic experience, while Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce argues that the capture by Barbary pirates...

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2. Writing Algiers: Masters, Slaves, and Renegades

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pp. 66-123

“DEL CAUTIVERIO Y HAZAÑAS de Miguel de Cervantes se pudiera hacer una particular historia” [On the captivity and heroic deeds of Miguel de Cervantes, one could write a particular history]. These are the words of Antonio de Sosa in his Diálogo de los mártires de Argel (180). Certainly, this history begs to be written. My study, which explores...

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3. Staging Captivity: El trato de Argel

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pp. 124-181

AS WE SAW IN CHAPTER 2, the Informaci

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4. An Erotics of Creation: La historia del cautivo

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pp. 182-232

THIS IS PERHAPS THE PLACE to rethink the mysterious links that associate the dungeon—the prison—with literary invention in Spain’s major writer. Let us recall that in his prologue to Don Quijote, the author affirms that this book was engendered “en una cárcel, donde toda incomodidad tiene su asiento” [in a prison, where every misery is lodged]...

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5. “Anudando este roto hilo” [Tying up this Broken Thread]

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pp. 233-254

IN A BOOK PUBLISHED a year before his death, Primo Levi remarked that “it has been observed by psychologists that survivors of traumatic events are divided into two well-defined groups: those who repress their past en bloc, and those whose memory of the offense persists, as though carved in stone, prevailing over all previous or subsequent experiences. Now,” says...

Chronology

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pp. 255-259

Notes

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pp. 261-297

Bibliography

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pp. 299-325

Index

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pp. 327-349


E-ISBN-13: 9780826591555
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826514066
Print-ISBN-10: 0826514065

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de, 1547-1616 -- Knowledge -- Algeria.
  • Algeria -- History -- 1516-1830.
  • Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de, 1547-1616 -- Captivity, 1575-1580.
  • Islam -- Relations -- Christianity.
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