General History of the Indies

Augmented Reading of the Classics

A catalog of classic books

In a catalog of classic books, the stories intertwine and lead from one book to the next. This leads to an increased reading of the classics. I will refer to an example, the result of the readings I did while editing the Historia general de las Indias, by Francisco López de Gómara.
The reader who opens our edition of the General History may not be able to avoid reading other related books. The General History of the Indies was written in Algeria. In the author’s brief biography we say that Gómara was never in the New World. However, this did not prevent him from being thoroughly informed of many military events that took place there and to know the political intrigues of his time, being secretary and chaplain of Hernán Cortés.

General History of the Indies

Cortes had not only conquered an empire in America, but in 1541 he invaded Algeria under the mandate of Charles I of Spain and there, in an expedition doomed to failure, he told his secretary the details of his American exploit.

The Inca Garcilaso de la Vega against the Moors

Later, Inca Garcilaso, a relative of the famous poet Garcilaso de la Vega, considered López de Gómara’s book offensive and wrote so in some notes in the margin of a copy of the General History of the IndiesHe was indignant at what he considered a slander to the Latin American memory.
The «Inca» had gone to Spain to fight against the rebellious Moors of La Alpujarra at the end of the 16th century. Rebellion that inspired the play Amar después de la muerte, by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.
Then the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega also fought, shortly after, in the Spanish armies deployed in Italy. So, at that time, while the Moors and Jews were being expelled from Spain, the «Incas» arrived in the country to serve in what was the most powerful army in the world.
Curiously, the Inca fought in Spain against Islam with the same fierceness with which he himself tried to vindicate his aboriginal past. Chance and curiosity led us to find this episode. However, it would not have occurred to me to search Google or my own library for the terms Inca Garcilaso and Alpujarra to identify what relationship there might be between them. These and many other relationships can only be found through an augmented reading tool applied to the classics.
This is what Aurelio Miró Quesada explains in his prologue:

«Another of the themes, and the one with the most dramatic personal echo, is the defense of the Inca’s father and the vindication of the family honor before the accusation of crime of lèse majesté by Captain Garcilaso de la Vega. In three occasions they are slight references to the importance that his father reached in the conquest and in the civil wars of Peru. But when Gómara arrives at the episode of the battle of Huarina and says that the rebel Gonzalo Pizarro, in a difficult moment of the fight, «would be in danger if Garcilaso did not give him a horse», the Inca is indignant and rectifies. With the memory of the sour reply he received at the Council of the Indies, which dashed his illusions, Inca Garcilaso writes in the margin: «This lie has robbed me of my food». But with resigned and serene moderation he then adds: «perhaps for the better».»

Complex ethnic and political relations

Books such as the Historia general de las Indias, the Comentarios reales and the Memorial en defensa de las costumbres moriscas, by Francisco Núñez Muley, a key text for understanding the Moorish rebellion, show the complex ethnic and political relations that the Hispanic empire was giving rise to at that time.
I believe that from this peculiar situation is born also a peculiar way of reading and understanding our classics, whose most evident result is this page and the links it contains to the catalog of our publishing house.

Enhanced reading of the classics

But how does the reader come to know these relationships and think tangentially about their classical tradition? This would be an augmented reading of the classics.
Using a digital library, as we know it, the only way to find and track these relationships would be by reading. However, today’s new technologies allow us to read and edit in a way that suggests these relationships without the heavy, complex and costly critical devices of yesteryear.
The digital edition allows us to expose new relationships between books, to give a new framework to conflicts and human dilemmas, such as that of Inca Garcilaso. And I hope readers will thank the astute editor who manages to do so in a clear and accessible way.
We have left behind the era of culture marked by mechanical reproducibility and entered the era of culture marked by connectivity.

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