Archive for July 23rd, 2014

July 23, 2014

Picaresque Novel

Ignatius Reilly by Julia Sarda

The picaresque [pik-uh-resknovel (Spanish:’picaresca,’ from ‘pícaro,’ for ‘rogue’ or ‘rascal’) is a popular subgenre of prose fiction which might sometimes be satirical and depicts, in realistic and often humorous detail, the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. This style of novel originated in 16th-century Spain and flourished throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. The word ‘picaro’ does not appear in ‘Lazarillo de Tormes’ (1554), the novella credited with founding the genre. The expression ‘picaresque novel’ was coined in 1810.  The genre continues to influence modern literature.

Picaresque novels are usually written in first person as an autobiographical account. A Lazarillo or picaro character is an alienated outsider, whose ability to expose and ridicule individuals compromised with society gives him a revolutionary stance. Lazarillo states that the motivation for his writing is to communicate his experiences of overcoming deception, hypocrisy, and falsehood (desengaño).

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