El periquillo sarniento, 1816 (The Itching Parrot, 1912)
Vida y hechos del famoso caballero Don Catrín de la Fachenda, 1822 (novella)
Noches tristes y día alegre, 1818 (autobiography)
La Quixotita y su prima, 1818-1819 (2 volumes), revised as La Quijotita y su prima, 1831-1832 (4 volumes)
Obras, 1963-1995 (13 volumes)
José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi (fehr-NAHN-days day lee-SAHR-dee) had no college education, but he taught himself French, and so came under the influence of French philosophy. In 1819 he commented on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ideas of education in La Quixotita y su prima (little Miss Quixote and her cousin). In 1812, taking advantage of the short-lived Constitution of Cádiz and its guarantee of freedom of the press, he founded the paper El Pensador Mexicano (the Mexican thinker), a name he subsequently used as his pseudonym. Soon after that he was imprisoned, but over the years he founded a number of other short-lived papers in which he propagated liberal ideas and worked for Mexico’s independence. He also wrote poetry and drama, and in the autobiographical dialogues about his sufferings during the struggle for independence, Noches tristes y día alegre (sad nights and happy day), he introduced Romantic prose to the New World.
Fernández de Lizardi is perhaps best remembered as the author of the first Latin American novel, The Itching Parrot, a title deriving from a pun on the name of the chief character, Pedro Sarmiento, whose schoolboy costume of green coat and yellow trousers earned him the nickname of “Parrot.” This picaresque novel criticized social customs at the end of Mexico’s viceregal period. In the novel a dying and repentant pícaro tells his life as a lesson for his sons. Because he frequently changed jobs and traveled, the narrative covers a broad social and geographic spectrum, including a utopian island in the Pacific. There is a strong moralizing and pedagogic note, and at the same time the obsolete science on which the work is based gives the novel an unintentionally humorous quality. The publication of the novel’s first sixteen chapters brought Fernández political difficulties, so complete publication was delayed until after his death. Censorship did not prevent him, however, from writing several other novels and many political pamphlets for which he was excommunicated and imprisoned. The novella Vida y hechos del famoso caballero Don Catrín de la Fachenda (the life and works of the famous gentleman Don Catrín de la Fachenda) is more playful because the story is told by an unreliable narrator, an unrepentant pícaro.