Even more popular in their day than Don Quixote, Cervantes's Exemplary Stories (1613) surprise, challenge and delight.
Ranging from the picaresque to the satirical, Cervantes's Exemplary Stories defy the conventions of heroic chivalric literature through a combination of comic irony, moral ambiguity, realism, and sheer mirth. With acute narrative skill and deft characterisation, drawing on colloquial language and farce, Cervantes creates a tension between the everyday and the literary, the plausible and the improbable. While encouraging us to reach our own moral conclusions, he also persuades us to accept the coincidental and the incredible: two boys indulge their life of crime at a time of public prayer; a young nobleman undergoes a change of identity at the behest of not a princess but a mere gipsy girl, and, most fantastically, talking dogs philosophize in a ward full of syphilitics. By placing the extraordinary within the contexts of the ordinary, the Exemplary Stories chart new novelistic territory and demonstrate Cervantes at his most imaginative and innovative.