No work has documented in such vivid and illuminating detail the socio-political world of sixteenth-century Algiers, Cervantes's life in the prison-house, his four escape attempts, and the conditions of his final ransom. Garces's portrait of a sophisticated multi-ethnic culture in Algiers, moreover, is likely to open up new discussions about early modern encounters between Christians and Muslims. By bringing together evidence from many different sources, historical and literary, Garces reconstructs the relations between Christians, Muslims, and renegades in a number of Cervantes's writings.
The idea that survivors of captivity need to repeat their story in order to survive (an insight invoked from Coleridge to Primo Levi to Dori Laub) explains not only Cervantes's storytelling but also the book that theorizes it so compellingly. As a former captive herself (a hostage of Colombian guerrillas), the author reads and listens to Cervantes with another ear.
Maria Antonia Garces provides new and fascinating interpretations of Cervantes' texts . . . [Her] book is grounded on the link between trauma and creativity . . . The commingling of history, biography, and trauma studies and, most importantly, the vivid narrative of an Algiers that Cervantes constantly recalls, make of this an exciting and fascinating read. This is an important book that provides new and compelling insights into Cervantes' Algiers.
[Highly recommended] not because it gives a personal picture of prison life . . . or because it bolsters a new theory of trauma criticism . . . [but] because it accomplishes something that is greatly needed among Hispanists, which is to say that it gets out of the fiction into the real world in which it was produced.
The significance of this book is enormous, as it is the first to chronicle Cervantes's five-year captivity in Algiers as both a traumatic and creative event [. . .] Garces's book will open up new avenues not only for rethinking the connections between trauma and captivity, but also for questioning the complex relations between Christian Spain and Islam in early modern times.
--Diana de Armas Wilson