Desperately Seeking Don Francisco: A Review-Article of Pablo Jauralde’s Francisco de Quevedo (1580–1645)
- Calíope: Journal of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 7, Number 1, 2001
- pp. 111-131
- View Citation
- Additional Information
D E S P E R A T E L Y S E E K I N G D O N F R A N C I S C O : A R E V I E W - A R T I C L E O F P A B L O J A U R A L D E ' S FRANCISCO DE QUEVEDO (1580-1645) James Iffland Boston.University For years Quevedo scholars have lamented the fact that there has been no major biography of Don Francisco from which we could draw for our own studies of his brilliantly jumbled oeuvre. After the ritualized attack on Astrana Marin's unreliable Vida turbulenta de Quevedo, most specialists have tended to send their readers off to consult Jose Manuel Blecua's biographical sketch in his Poesia original. While judiciously solid in most respects, the latter nevertheless tends to leave readers hungry for more detail about various stages of Quevedo's life. During the eighties many quevedistas caught wind of the fact that Pablo Jauralde was working on a full-scale biography of Don Francisco and that he was doing it the right way—that is, by patiently gathering every conceivable shred of evidence available in the pertinent archives. A good glimpse of the thoroughness of his efforts was made available when Jauralde published Quevedoy sufamilia in collaboration with James Crosby in 1992. When Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645) appeared in 1998,1 was overjoyed at the chance of finally being able to explore every nook and cranny of the life of this author who continues to fascinate me as do few others. After sporadically sampling from its 1,071 pages once it reached my university's library, I finally was able to read it from cover to cover during the summer of 2000.1 I will state from the outset that many of my expectations regarding Jauralde's biography were met. As will happen with most readers, I was left stunned by the thoroughness of Jauralde's research. We are dealing here with a painstaking effort of the type which is becoming increasingly impossible in academe's drive toward fast-food-like "productivity" (especially in this country). The patience, energy, and dedication necessary to root out the astonishing quantity of material found in Jauralde's book are simply beyond the capacity of most scholars working today.2 Such a thoroughness, however, does not come without a price. And here I will begin to allude to some of the problems which inevitably arise in a project of such magnitude. On finishing Francisco . . ., one cannot help getting the impression that the sheer monumentality of the material gathered often tends to overCALlOPE Vol. 7, No. 1 (2001): pages 111-131 112 «5 James Iffland whelm Jauralde in his efforts to come to terms with his subject. Attempting to reconstruct anybody's lite, even a rather uneventful one, is no mean feat. But when trying to impose a vaguely "Apollonian" order on such a vexingly "Dionysian" entity as Don Francisco, the challenge is breathtaking . Making it even more daunting is the whole problem of one's audience . To wit: how much detail is appropriate? Presumably the specialists will want it to be abundant and vivid and the non-specialists somewhat (or considerably) less so. Which group should the biographer favor? And let us not forget that this is a literary biography. How much attention should be paid to the actual works produced by the author in question? Do we offer synthesizing over-views or do we delve into their complex inner beauties? Here, too, we run into the big problem of the audience. Do we want to satisfy fully our quevedista colleagues or do we have in mind a kind of educated "general reader" who may have been bitten by the Quevedo bug as a student and who now wishes to go back to read about his fascinating life? While the two groups are not necessarily light-years away from each other, insights sufficiently new to please the specialists may make the eyes of the lay reader glaze over after awhile. My own impression is thatJauralde's work ends up "falling between two stools." On the...