In general I am not a fan of talking animals, but I must admit that with Lucy in our lives, I am more amenable to talking dogs now than I would have been previously. Apparently, if you believe the front flap, this is the first instance in western literature of a talking-dog story.
While taking treatment for syphilis, Ensign Campuzano overhears Scipio and Berganza, two Mastiffs talking to each other for what turns out to be their first time. And they have much to say. As Berganza tells Scipio about the different masters he has had over the years he simultaneously transmits Cervantes’ commentary on the vagaries of human nature. According to the front flap of this edition Berganza’s tales (tails?) provided a new way to discuss morality without relying on empiricism. The stories are interesting enough and they are indeed effective in accomplishing Cervantes’ aim. It took a while getting used to the translation which includes enough 21st century vernacular to be a little jarring at first. But I think overall I liked the modern language. It seemed more appropriately whimsical for the dogs than more antiquated language.
The Verdict: While it didn’t knock my socks off, the novella included many interesting stories with moral messages that never got preachy.