Reviews - What do customers think about Naufragios (COLECCION LETRAS HISPANICAS) (Letras Hispanicas)?
Love the text, hate the intro Aug 6, 2008
As always, this text by Cabeza de Vaca is a classic and can be read with many ends in mind: proto-ethnography, failed conquest, shipwreck, etc. But the editor is kind of a bonehead, honestly. While he starts off with a discussion of the historiographical issues of the text, the perennial issue of whether it should be regarded as "history" or as "fictive," he pretty much sides with the more literary camp. I actually focus on the literary aspects as well in my own work, but somewhere along the way in the introduction, the text's literariness becomes, for the editor, an issue of fiction/truth value. While he correctly points out the literary currents and models of Cabeza de Vaca's age, he at times takes these to mean that the story is mostly made up - or so SO exaggerated so as to put the text clearly in the realm of creative writing. But the interesting thing about this text is how exaggerated and/or fantastical it is, while also a record of the encounter of one individual with wildly different cultures. The editor does correctly point out that the depiction of Amerindians in the text is "concrete" and not archetypal; Cabeza de Vaca does not paint them as noble savages or as blood thirsty cannibals. But to my mind, the editor pushes the intention to curry royal favor into a forced and forceful account of tall tales. And he also seems to take this narrative as evidence that Spanish colonialism was not as bad as it may seem if you read Las Casas. On the whole, English, French, and Spanish writers always seem to suggest that all the other empires were much worse and their own, but I don't know that that kind of comparison is useful. Lastly, the editor standardized Spanish grammar and spelling for the modern reader. If you have to read this book in college for a history or Spanish course in which you only have to know "the plot," I guess that's fine. But an edition with the older spelling and grammar would be much better if you're reading this for a literature class or a graduate class - it seems to me that particularly the non-standard grammar shows how even though Cabeza de Vaca does control his narrative in quite evident ways there is a great deal that he does not control. Overall, the editor has cost this book its fifth star.