This is not the first time that we have commented in this very modest blog on the revolutionary and insightful Jordi Bilbeny's contributions. He was the one who realized the appropriation of Catalan literary history by Castile in the 15th and following centuries. More or less as they do now differently. He has certainly not been the first to suspect over time that there was something that did not fit with what had been conveyed to us. Bilbeny also talks about it. But he has been the first to systematically and rigorously place many items on the table in the form of positive documents that should at least serve to initiate an ex novo review of the historical legacy.
It seems to me that since Mandado’s book came out, which we discussed here at the time, observations, clues, and even evidence have not stopped growing. These findings have been published on the INH website, in some books and also in the form of lectures recorded on Youtube. I do not know of any academic article that has been published in any consolidated journal of Hispanic philology, from outside, of course, because we already know what those of here think and do. And it’s not that there’s a lack of material. And it is not that what Bilbeny tells us is outlandish no matter how little it is analyzed. This is a policy - I think wrong - of the INH. Not going to the conventional academic world. Moreover, the material is published in Catalan and Spanish one has quite a different direction. If the process of dissemination is not accelerated, the first Catalan edition, predictably from 1595, will not appear, as Bilbeny says - which we must continue to search diligently - we will not be able to consolidate this new perspective that has all the appearance of being true.
There is a fact that suddenly catches your eye when you live in Catalonia. The answer to the hypotheses, clues and evidence that Bilbeny has spread have in common: they try to ridicule the theses and the person who formulates them with any weapon -everything is worth it-, and usually the most belligerent and rude are the more ignorant such as journalists of clear affiliation or anonymous prostitutes who are duly subsidized are engaged in trying to undermine the morale of the enemy in the networks. There is only silence on the part of the university. A deafening silence. It is very suspicious. Not to criticize or refute anything. Silence. And it is true that there is a strong contempt but anyone minimally trained and with historical or philological studies knows that what Bilbeny says is not only plausible but also probable. But of course, it’s not just about reviewing history, clarifying the sources, getting to the bottom of the issue, finding the truth after all. There is something much bigger at stake that is precisely what Don Quixote intended to defend against imaginary dangers. This one here is not imaginary but it is terribly true.
While some professors here and there do not even mention to criticize the new theses and persist in official history no matter how squeaky is, some Spanish novelists and 'intellectuals', even if they were born in Catalonia, do exactly the same. However, I can understand it: they defend their way of life, their bread, their name, their work and some of them their patriotic pride because they feel they are the custodians of a collective imaginary that has never existed as they thought it. Like Don Quixote. What hurts the most is that among the academics of Catalan philology, as far as I know, they do exactly the same if not worse. Surprising but it is the same attitude: silence, suspicion, feeling of false superiority and finally fear.
I have modestly dedicated myself to collecting Bilbeny's findings, among others, and they can be consulted here:
I only mention three facts that are no longer mere clues or assumptions but constitute from my point of view safe evidence to move forward. There are more, though.
1. We have documented references that in 1604, a year before the publication of the presumed first edition in Madrid, the book was already known and people were disguising themselves as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at the Barcelona Carnival. Therefore, the 1605 edition is not the first. Cervantes tells us about the editions in Antwerp and Barcelona, which have disappeared and should appear in Catalan for the first time and were later censored and translated. This fact disallows the princeps of Madrid. And we have many clues - too many - and of a very diverse nature.
2. In the first chapter of the second part of Don Quixote there is a story that is Valencian and is found in several versions written as the Rector's Romance. This is already asked in 1922 in the book El folklore valenciano en el Don Quijote by Francisco Martínez y Martínez in a pamphlet published in Valencia. How could Cervantes, who is from Alcalá according to what we are told about, could know this romance, if he was not from Valencia or had a close relationship with it? This fact supports the thesis that Cervantes (Servent) was from Valencian land which is ratified by many other facts that you can read in the mentioned document and put together give life to the thesis of Bilbeny without any fissure.
3. We know because it is documented, that a mysterious Thomas Shelton translated Don Quixote in 1602 (although it was published in 1612). That is, before the edition of Madrid, which means that there is another previous one, presumably from 1595 because the licenses were often granted for ten years. This observation is made by Francis Carr, who erroneously deduces that the novel was first written in English.
It does not follow that a first edition was in Catalan but it is beyond doubt that the edition of Madrid of 1605 is not the first edition of Don Quixote as we have been led to believe with interest and clumsiness. Nor is it certain that Cervantes was Valencian, but that the links with that Valencian land are very powerful to the point of knowing a local folk tale.
Tsunamis have a seismic origin and are not dangerous on the high seas, although they are getting bigger. Only when they reach the mainland they are devastating. The submarine earthquake occurred years ago and we are now in the growth phase. But when it gets dry sooner or later the effects will be inexorable and have unpredictable consequences.