The Exemplary Novelsby Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Walter K. Kelly (Translator)
This series of short stories was initially published in Madrid in 1613, containing tales that were written by Cervantes between 1590 and 1612. The collection was well received, following the extremely successful release of the first part of Don Quixote. The twelve short stories follow a model established in Italy at the time and they are usually grouped into two series: those characterised by an idealised nature and those of a realistic nature.
Those idealised in style, which are the closest to the Italian models, contain plots dealing with amorous entanglements, with improbable stories and fanciful characters, with some consideration of psychological development, in spite of the lack of reality found in the other tales. These stories include: El amante liberal, Las dos doncellas, La española inglesa, La señora Cornelia and La fuerza de la sangre.
The stories of a more realistic nature offer descriptions of realistic characters and environments, with intentional criticism in many cases. The best known stories in this class are Rinconete y Cortadillo, El licenciado Vidriera, La gitanilla and La ilustre fregona. However, the separation between the two groups is not definite and elements of the idealistic may be found in some of the realistic novels and vice versa.
Since there are multiple versions of some of these stories, it is believed that Cervantes introduced some variations in these novels for moral, social and aesthetic purposes, explaining perhaps the use of the epithet 'exemplary'. The more primitive version is found in the manuscript called the de Porras de la Cámara, a miscellaneous collection of various literary works which include a novel usually obscurely attributed to Cervantes, La tía fingida. On the other hand, some short stories are also embedded in Don Quixote, as are El curioso impertinente or Historia del cautivo, which have autobiographical elements.
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