“Fashioning the Ancien Régime” (1994)

Hispanic Review, Vol 62, No. 2 (Spring, 1994), pp. 235-247.

edro Antonio de Alarcón’s El sombrero de tres picos is one of the most internationally popular novels ever to come out of Spain.  Not only was the text translated into at least seven different languages during the author’s lifetime, but its storyline has since served as the basis for French, Belgian and German operettas, a number of films in both Italy an Spain, and, of course, the ballet composed by Mauel de Falla which premiered in London in 1919 with sets by Picasso and choreogrpahy by Massine.  In a certain sense, this international acclaim is fitting; after all, the basic story of El sombrero de tres picos does emerge from the pan-European folk tradition and an ancestor of the tale can be found in a book translated into Castilian from Arabic in the thirteenth century.

Nevertheless, the folk orgins and the cosmopolitan reception and assimilation of El sombrero seem to have torn the novel out of its immediate context –Spain, 1874—and transformed it into a universal divertimento.  […] Critics have indeed tended to regard this text as a kind of jewel:  a precious gem we can remove the mud mud and slime of its contemporary moment and place within that lovely setting of Literature or the Classic. My goal in this essay […] is to read the text not from the privileged perspective of its eventual canonization, but rather in relation to the series of text and issues out of which it emerged…

Read the rest of  “Fashioning the Ancien Régime: P.A. de Alarcón’s El sombrero de tres picos.”

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