Journal of Catalan Studies/Revista Internacional de Catalanisme


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A. W. Ibarz
awi1000@hermes.cam.ac.uk
Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

 
Who Wrote Tirant lo Blanc? The Enigma is Solved!
Josep GUIA I MARN ( josep.guia@uv.es), De Martorell a Corella. Descobrint l'autor del Tirant, «Recerca i Pensament«, 2, Editorial Afers, Catarroja-Barcelona, 1996, pp. 302. ISBN 84-86574-37-4.
 

For some time scholars have been aware of passages from the works of the Valencian priest and humanist Joan Roís de Corella which appear repeated almost word for word in Tirant lo Blanc. Opinion has been divided as to how these texts were introduced into the novel, and specialists have come to favour two divergent hypotheses. On the one hand it has been thought they represent plagiaries committed by author Joanot Martorell. On the other it has been suggested that Joan Martí de Galba interpolated these passages when he set about finishing off the novel, a task assigned to him after Martorells death in 1468, according to the colophon of 1490. Until now, noone has suspected that both these hypotheses might equally be flawed.

De Martorell a Corella reveals a far greater Corellian presence than had previously been thought. Josep Guia has found some 170 concordant passages. This in itself represents a major contribution to scholarship. It is an astonishing revelation which deals a mortal blow to the Martorellian hypothesis as it now transpires that Joanot certainly did not live long enough to plagiarise some of, if not most of Corellas works. On this point, Guia suspects that many of Corellas texts have been dated too early. Be this as it may, the results of his linguistic analysis are in themselves significant.

Armed with such an astonishing set of correspondences Guia goes on to test the second interpolator hypothesis. He sets to work by attempting to reconstitute the hypothetical Martorellian original, which was once evoked by Joan Coromines as "lúnic Tirant veritable... despullat daquestes vegetacions supèrflues i deformants...". As it turns out this task becomes increasingly difficult as soon as the critic is confronted with passages of works by Corella composed after Martorells death, and yet which, when extracted, make a nonsense of the chapter which remains.

If this curious Corellian presence cannot, then, be wholly accounted for as Martorellian plagiarism, neither can it be entirely attributed to Galban meddling. Where there is no preceding text, one no longer interpolates. Why indeed, Guia ventures, could Corella not be responsible for the whole novel, with Martorell still of course providing the original impetus, as well as much collected material. There is, after all, precious little evidence that Joan Martí de Galba was a serious writer. Indeed the same might be said of Martorell.

The mystery of how Tirant lo Blanc came to be written the way it did, has not, until now, been perceived as such. In a characteristically perceptive and close reading, Guia draws our attention to the dedication of the 1490 edition, in which Martorell declares his authorship:

E perquè en la present obra altri no puixa ésser increpat si defalliment algú trobat hi serà, jo, Joanot Martorell, cavaller, sols vull portar lo càrrec, e no altri ab mi; com per mi sols sia estada ventilada... [And so that no-one else be blamed should any matter herein be found to be in error, I, Joanot Martorell, knight, wish to bear sole responsibility for this work, as it is to be aired in public by me, and by me alone...]

Is the tenor of this declaration not extraordinary? Is the reader not wittily invited here to acknowledge that Martorells authorship could in fact be contested? Do the interpolations, in this light, not make sense as a way of signing the text?

From the moment Guia starts asking such questions one knows that one is confronted here, in light of the new evidence brought to bear on the question, with a rare and exciting discovery. Both the necessity of Corellas authorship of Tirant lo Blanc, and its significance, Guia concludes, is made apparent when one considers it as a project which grew steadily between 1460-89, taking shape alongside, and in dialogue with, Corellas other works.

The singular importance of this research ensures that De Martorell a Corella will, one day, become a landmark of Catalan and European literary history. It is now three years since this important work was published, but still early days for the ramifications of Guias discovery to be fully digested and explored by the specialists. Needless to say scholars in related fields will keenly await the fruit of this research. It promises to be an exciting time for Catalan Studies.