Cide Hamete Benengeli

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Cide Hamete Benengeli is a fictional Muslim historian created by Miguel de Cervantes in his novel Don Quixote, who Cervantes says is the true author of most of the work. This is a skillful metafictional literary pirouette that seems to give more credibility to the text, making believe that Don Quixote was a real person and the story is decades old. However, it's fairly obvious to the reader that such a thing is impossible, and that the pretense of Cide Hamete's work is meant as a joke.

In the preface of Part One of the novel (published in 1605), Cervantes indicates that he is not the original author, but is simply passing on information that can be found in "the archives of La Mancha". At the end of Chapter VIII, Cervantes states that the information from the archives ends in a particularly exciting cliffhanger, and in Chapter IX, he describes finding an Arabic manuscript called "The History of Don Quixote of La Mancha, written by Cide Hamete Benengeli, an Arab historian."

In Part Two (published in 1615), the young scholar Carrasco informs Don Quixote that the story of his adventures is well-known, thanks to the publication of his history by Cide Hamete.

Cide Hamete is Moorish, although this adjective is not explicitly applied to him. Cervantes says that he is "Arabian and Manchegan": in other words, a Spanish Muslim Arab-speaker, and not a North African or an Ottoman. However, in Part Two, Chapter XLIV, Benengeli writes, "I, though a Moor..."

Parody of chivalric romances[edit]

Cervantes' use of the supposed translation of a true record of events is a parody of an element commonly found in the books of chivalry. For example, in the Cristalián de España, author Beatriz Bernal claims that he found a book in an ancient tomb, and explains his decision to copy it. Another example can be seen in Florisando by Páez de Ribera, who claims to have translated a work of Greek origin from the Tuscan. These adventures are never presented as inventions of the authors themselves, thus giving them greater credibility. The tweaking of this narrative convention gave Cervantes the opportunity to make humorous, ironic comments, and even play several fictional games.

Etymology[edit]

Many speculations have been made about the meaning of Benengeli's name. The first element, "Cide," as Don Quixote states, means "sir" in Arabic: it is a corruption of سيد sīd.

"Hamete" is also the Castilian form of a proper Indo-European name of Hispanic Muslim origin. However, scholars do not agree on its exact equivalent in Arabic, as it could correspond to three very similar names. The Egyptian Hispanist Abd al-Aziz al-Ahwani makes it equivalent to حمادة Hamāda; Abd al-Rahman Badawi opts for حميد Hāmid, while Mahmud Ali Makki affirms that is أحمد Aḥmad, a more common name than the others.

The meaning of "Benengeli" has made more ink flow. The first to propose an interpretation was the Arabist José Antonio Conde, who interpreted it as a Spanish version of ابن الأيل Ibn al-ayyil, "son of the deer". This was a subtle allusion to Cervantes' own surname, as the word for deer in Spanish is "ciervo". The scholars Diego Clemencín and Abd al-Rahman Badawi agreed.

The Cervantists Saadeddine Bencheneb and Charles Marcilly proposed as an etymology ابن الإنجيل Ibn al-Inŷīl, that is, "son of the Gospel." This would be an ironic pun highlighting the difference between the supposedly Muslim author and the Christian character of the real author, himself.

For the Hispanicist Mahmud Ali Makki, none of the previous interpretations has consistency and is inclined to assume that the name is simply an invention, although he points out that it may be inspired by the surname of a well-known Andalusian family originally from Denia, the Beni Burungal or Berenguel (بني برنجل, last name of Catalan origin -Berenguer-, arabized and then again romanized as Berenguel).

The possible puns referenced above would rely on Cervantes' knowledge of the Arabic language, which is a feasible presumption. Cervantes spent five years captive in Algiers, and he was allowed to move around the city and interact with its inhabitants. On the other hand, Américo Castro was the first to point out its possible converse origin, a hypothesis that has been sustained to a greater or lesser degree by later authors. And La Mancha, finally, as well as a good part of the southern half of the Peninsula, was densely populated by Moriscos. In any case, the Arab and the Islamic were not alien to Cervantes.

References[edit]

  • Abd Al-Aziz al-Ahwani, trans. Arabic and notes to Don Quixote de la Mancha, Cairo, 1957.
  • Abd Al-Aziz al-Ahwani, "Cervantes and Sidi Hamada", Al-Maŷalla, no. 96, Cairo, December 1964, p. 14-22.
  • Abd al-Rahman Badawi, trans. Arabic and notes to Don Quixote de la Mancha, Abu Dhabi, Al-Madà, 1998.
  • Ángel González Palencia , «Cervantes and the Moors», Bulletin of the Royal Spanish Academy , no. XXVII, 1948, p. 107-122.
  • Américo Castro, Cervantes and the Spanish casticismos;, Madrid, Alfaguara / Alianza, 1974.
  • Diego Clemencín, ed. and notes to Don Quixote de la Mancha, Madrid, Castilla, 1967.
  • Leopoldo Eguílaz y Yanguas, "Etymological notes to the ingenious hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha ", in Homage to Menéndez Pelayo in the twentieth year of his teaching staff, vol. II, Madrid, Victoriano Suárez General Library, 1899, p. 121-142.
  • Charles Marcilly and Saadeddine Bencheneb, "Qui était Cide Hamete Benengeli?", In Mélanges à la mémoire by Jean Sarrailh, vol. I, Paris, Center de recherches de l'Institut d'études hispaniques, 1966, p. 97-116.
  • Mahmud Ali Makki, "The Banu Burungal, a family of Denian intellectuals," Sharq al-Andalus, no. 21, Alicante, 1993-1994.
  • VV.AA. History of Spanish Literature Vol. II. Renaissance and Baroque. Everest. p. 702-703