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Felix or the Book of Wonders

Ramon wrote this ambitious didactic novel during his first stay in Paris, between 1287 and 1289. The protagonist, Felix, whose name is also often used to designate this work, is not a hero without blemish like Blaquerna, who contributes decisively towards the organisation of worldly affairs, but rather a pilgrim who observes reality only to discover, to his sorrow and surprise, the distance separating human conduct from the divine order of creation. The medieval term ‘wonder’ (‘meravella’) refers to Felix’s sorrowful surprise at the assorted forms of evil, but also designates the positive enthusiasm of the traveller when he obtains aspects of the truth from the mouths of philosophers and hermits with whom he engages in friendly dialogue.

Felix’s travels follow a path prepared by the encyclopedic knowledge of the 13th century, with the result that the ten sections of the work coincide roughly with the subjects of Ramon’s Art: God, the angels, the heavens, the elements, plants, metals, the animals, man, pradise and hell. Even though Felix contains a great deal of information about theology and natural philosophy, the work’s nucleus is to be found in moral philosophy, present in the eighth part, the ‘The Book of Man’, which complements the political apology of the preceding section, the Book of the Beasts.

Felix combines narrative with forms of dialogue which were customary in medieval didactic texts. Sometimes Llull shows us the progress of diligent disciples, who are capable of resolving complicated questions as well as their masters: this functions as a stimulus to the reader, who is invited to educate himself through contact with the book he is holding in his hands. The principal tool offered by Ramon takes the form of ‘exempla’, the true soul of the Book of Wonders. Practically everything which occurs throughout the novel ‘represents’ some other thing. The masters found by Felix clear up his doubts by means of stories and resemblances of other aspects of reality, which bear an analogical correspondence to the information required. Llull’s vision of the cosmos, founded upon Platonic notions of analogy and exemplarism is responsible for the literary form of this novel. Sometimes the analogies appear to be obscure: Llull never wished them, however, to be completely so, because he believed in the educative power of intellectual exercise.