Cervantes in Algiers: A Captive's Tale by Maria Antonia Garces

By Maria Antonia Garces

Returning to Spain after scuffling with within the conflict of Lepanto and different Mediterranean campaigns opposed to the Turks, the soldier Miguel de Cervantes was once captured through Barbary pirates and brought captive to Algiers. The 5 years he spent within the Algerian bagnios or prison-houses (1575-1580) made an indelible impact on his works. From the 1st performs and narratives written after his unlock to his posthumous novel, the tale of Cervantes's annoying adventure continually speaks via his writings. Cervantes in Algiers bargains a complete view of his lifestyles as a slave and, really, of the lingering results this aggravating adventure had on his literary production.
No paintings has documented in such shiny and illuminating element the socio-political international of sixteenth-century Algiers, Cervantes's lifestyles within the prison-house, his 4 get away makes an attempt, and the stipulations of his ultimate ransom. Garces's portrait of a cosmopolitan multi-ethnic tradition in Algiers, furthermore, is probably going to open up new discussions approximately early glossy encounters among Christians and Muslims. by way of bringing jointly proof from many alternative resources, ancient and literary, Garces reconstructs the family among Christians, Muslims, and renegades in a few Cervantes's writings.
The concept that survivors of captivity have to repeat their tale with the intention to continue to exist (an perception invoked from Coleridge to Primo Levi to Dori Laub) explains not just Cervantes's storytelling but additionally the booklet that theorizes it so compellingly. As a former captive herself (a hostage of Colombian guerrillas), the writer reads and listens to Cervantes with one other ear.

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Additional info for Cervantes in Algiers: A Captive's Tale

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The survivors were transported, tied hand and foot, to the Algerian ships. Suddenly, the rest of Leiva’s squadron appeared on the horizon, chasing the corsairs, who escaped in haste with their booty. The prestigious signatures on the letters of recommendation found on Miguel de Cervantes led the corsairs to believe that he was an important personage, worthy of a high ransom. While Rodrigo was designated as part of the booty reserved for Ramadàn Pasha, the beylerbey of Algiers, Miguel fell into the hands of Dalí Mamí, nicknamed el Cojo (the cripple), who demanded as the price of ransom the exorbitant sum of five hundred gold escudos.

In spite of being sick with fever, the soldier appeared on the bridge before the battle began, and, in response to his captain and friends who advised him to take cover because he was sick and in no condition to fight, he exclaimed “que más quería morir peleando por Dios y por su Rey, que no meterse so cubierta, e que su salud” [that he would rather die fighting for God and his king than go below the deck and look after his health]. 30 As Canavaggio elucidates, the launch emplacement, located at the front of the ship, was an especially vulnerable combat post (Cervantes, 36).

It suffices to say that the dangerous approach to the vortex of trauma—to the reenactment of captivity in this tale—engenders the fabulous fiction of Zoraida, one of the most appealing creations in the Cervantine oeuvre. As mentioned earlier, the joint appearance of traumatic memories and fantastic inventions constitutes a pattern that traverses Cervantes’s works. This paradigm can be noticed in other Cervantine fictions, such as in the plays El trato de Argel, Los baños de Argel, and the novellas La española inglesa [The English Spanish Girl], and El amante Liberal [The Liberal Lover], to cite only a few.

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