Fiction and Metafiction in Borge’s Ficciones and Cervantes’ Don Quixote dela Mancha Unbelievable and amazing may perhaps best describe the literature that the world has as of the moment. It is unbelievable because who would have thought that the wide spectrum of literary works would be so great in number? At the same time, it is amazing as the progress and history which literature has gone through are truly marvelous.
The literary works which are within humanity’s reach are incomparable to what people back then had. The literary works of the moment which are within humanity’s reach is a compilation of history, art, language, the sciences, and politics of every generation, culture, and nation. Truly, literature has such a monumental scope within its pages that sometimes, a person may be lost with so many things literature has to offer. Literature is both fact and fiction and is inspired both by history and creative imagination.
The elements within literature are all reflections of the realities of society, but these things can still be considered as fictional—after all, fact is fact and pure truth—nothing more. But what if something fictional seems so real that it seems to be factual and true? What if a person or a character which is just imagined seems to be a real person of this world? What if the line between reality and imagined is confusing and seems to be separated by nothing at all?
Two authors by the name of Jorge Luis Borges and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra are the answers to such questions. Saavedra who wrote (or “supposedly re-wrote) the famous adventure of Don Quixote dela Mancha and Jorge Luis Borges who wrote the seventeen literary pieces contained within Ficciones are fictional writers. When a person talks about fiction, it usually pertains to one thing—created by the imagination. Thus, it means that any work of fiction is merely invented by any person and that any fictional work is not true, is false, and can never be a fact.
Yet, Saavedra and Borges have created literary works which are fictional but they seem so real and true that a person is left to believe that they are indeed the truth—metafiction. Metafiction, according to Patricia Waugh, is “a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality” (qtd. in Liu). Thus, metafiction is indeed fictional and from the imagination, and it aims to confuse readers about what is real and what is merely created by a person.
How does a person achieve this? Again, according to Patricia Waugh, “such writings not only examine the fundamental structures of narrative fiction, they also explore the possible fictionality of the world outside the literary fictional text” (qtd. in Liu). Thus, an author creates a fictional world and creates another fictional world within the already imagined world—creating a metafictional world. In Borges’ Ficciones and Saavedra’s Don Quixote dela Mancha—this metafictional world is truly what they have conjured up.
Ficciones is a book which contains seventeen fictional literary pieces that seem to be real. Each piece has its own world, own elements of characters, settings, and even at some point, its own mind and language. There are pieces such as the Library of Babel that appears to be real and true that a reader also wants to believe that such place is true. In that particular piece (from Part One of the book), Borges describes a library in length and in awe.
The whole thing seems to be an introduction to a novel of some sort, and yet at the same time, it also seems to come from a real book full of factual evidences that such a library exists. In the following excerpt, Borges describes the library and the people who are fascinated with it: “When it was proclaimed that the Library comprised all books, the first impression was one of extravagant joy. All men felt themselves of a secret, intact treasure. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly expanded to the limitless dimensions of hope” (83).
However, further in the Library of Babel, Borges even talks of mystical books such as the Vindications which are “books of apology and prophesy which vindicated for all time the actions of every man in the world and established a store of prodigious arcana for the future” (83). What Borges has created is a fictional world, but a reader may find that world to be so palpable and genuine that it appears to be impossible that it is just imagined. The same conclusion can be given to Saavedra and his work on Don Quixote dela Mancha.
In Saavedra’s work, the book is divided into two parts—one is the tale or adventure itself of Don Quixote and the second part is the metafictional work wherein the author talks directly to the readers and even to the characters that they all seem to be real people when clearly, they are all imagined. The ridiculous adventure of Don Quixote and his “squire” Sancho Panza is so preposterous (as with the example of the enchanted peasant girl or the basin turned into a knight’s helmet), far-fetched, and humorous that a person will not for a second think that the entire tale is true.
However, when Saavedra writes the second part of the book, doubts and hesitations replace the earlier convictions. For example, in the first part, Saavedra writes about a Dulcinea who was believed by Don Quixote to be a princess in disguise of a peasant girl when in fact, she really is a peasant girl. Later on though, Saavedra explains this turn of events in Don Quixote’s life: “I have reason to think that Sancho’s artifice to deceive his mater, and make him believe the peasant girl to be Dulcinea enchanted, was in fact, all a contrivance of some one of the magicians who persecute Don Quixote…
” (369). Therefore, Saavedra has created two worlds—one that is entirely fictional wherein the character of Don Quixote resides, and the other is metaficitonal wherein the character of Don Quixote does reside still but which it is explained why he has such ridiculous notions of chivalry and enchantments. In conclusion, though metafiction may seem to be such a complex and wondrous thing, it cannot exist without a person knowing first what is fictional. Metafiction exists in the world of fiction—a person cannot write or create a metafictional world without going into a fictional one.
That is like a person wanting to break the rules without knowing what were the rules in the first place. Literature is truly complex but at the same time unbelievable and amazing—Saavedra and Borges can attest to that. Works Cited Borges, Jorge Luis. Ficciones. New York: Grove Press, 1962. Saavedra, Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quixote dela Mancha. New York: Penguin Group Incorporated, 1957. Lui, Kate. “Theories of Metafiction. ” Postmodern Theories and Texts. 1998. Department of English Language and Literature, Fu Jen University. 4 Aug. 2009.
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