Life and Deeds of the Cunning Rogue Guzman de Alfarache


Vida y hechos del picaro Guzman de Alfarache (The life and deeds of the cunning rogue Guzman de Alfarache) is an important early example of the picareseque novel, a fictional genre that developed in Spain and that takes its name from picaro, a Spanish word meaning rogue or rascal. Written more as a moralizing discourse than for amusement, Guzman de Alfarache offers all of the features of the picaresque novel. The author, Mateo Alemán (born in Seville in 1547, died in Mexico circa 1615), developed an original personal style, not yet exploited in La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades (The life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of his fortunes and adversities), the anonymous novella published in 1554 that served as his model. In both the first and second parts of the work, the storyline is supplemented with short tales, diversions, and anecdotes that allow the author to reflect on topics such as justice, honor, and forgiveness, even as they interrupt the main narrative by Guzman, an unscrupulous character who undertakes numerous frauds and deceptions. A feeling of sadness pervades the story, drawing the reader into the complicated realities of 16th-century Spain and Italy, and reflecting the spirit of the Counter-Reformation then underway. The first part was published in Madrid in 1599 and was a remarkable success. Publication of the second part followed in 1604. The work was enormously popular and was soon translated into English, French, German, Italian, and Latin. This edition from the National Library of Spain was printed in 1681.

Last updated: September 29, 2014