Hernán Lara Zavala
Hernán Lara Zavala is a short story writer, novelist and essayist. One of the leading voices in the Mexican literary scene, he was awarded the Iberian-American Novel Prize Elena Poniatowska, in Mexico City (2009), and the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language Prize (2010), for his novel Península, península, published in 2008. He has published six collections of short-stories, a book on Cervantes titled The Novels in Don Quijote, two collections of travel chronicles, and two novels: Charras (1990) and Península, península (2008), in which he shows his concern for local or regional history, the development of historical novels in the Mexican literary tradition, as well as an exploration of the complex relationship between history and fiction. He teaches literature in English at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he is also the Editor in Chief of the book collection “Nuestros Clásicos”.
Letter to John Banville
Dear John Banville,
As it happens quite often I got to know you through your writing before I ever suspected to meet you personally. I’d read some of your stuff, particularly The Sea, which I enjoyed greatly. As soon as I saw you I introduced myself wondering if you were really “you”, John Banville. You smiled and shook my hand. We were both attending the play The Faith Healer by Brian Frield, at The Gate Theatre, Dublin. You were on your own and I was quite shocked by the intensity of Dublin’s cultural life: I had to queue, for more than an hour in the street, before I was able to get a seat.
Now I’ve just read your brief but suggestive piece “Fiction and the Dream”, in which you state that in “the process of writing a novel…the novelist’s aim is to make the reader have the dream—not just to read about it, but actually to experience it: to have the dream; to write the novel”.
The revelation in your essay reminded me of a poem written by Jorge Luis Borges in relation to Cervantes’ Don Quixote. In this brief poem, Cervantes as an author, dreams about an “hidalgo” (a respectable but somehow idle Spanish gentleman of the XVIIth century) who is going to be the main character of his novel; on his turn, this “hidalgo” is going to dream about becoming a knight errand. The poem’s title is “Alonso Quijano dreams”. May I try a rough approach of it into English? The poem says something like this:
The “hidalgo” was a dream of Cervantes
And Don Quixote was a dream of the “hidalgo”
The double dream confuses them and something
Is happening that happened long ago.
Quijano sleeps and dreams. A battle:
Fire at the Lepanto’s sea.
The construction of Don Quixote thus becomes a kind of triple dream: Cervantes imagines an idle gentleman lover of chivalry books who becomes mad after reading too many novels; this “hidalgo” dreams that he’s a Knight errand and begins to live accordingly. But the dream of the “hidalgo” goes back to Cervantes imagination who remembers his own adventures as a young soldier and the novel develops as a result of this autobiographical experience which will enrich the dream you refer to in your essay. Neither Alonso Quijano nor Don Quixote are made of flesh and blood but the three of them (if we include Cervantes) have become part of the same dream. When at the very end of the novel Alonso Quijano recovers his wits after a healing dream he abjures of chivalry books, duels, battles and even of Dulcinea, A little afterwards, once in his own mind, Alonso Quijano dies and along with him dies Don Quixote and all his lost illusions. But the novel endures and with it the genius of Cervantes.
Hernán Lara Zavala