My latest completed book has left me reeling from a book hangover. Don Quixote is, in my mind, an essential reading and one that has surpassed all my expectations of it. Edith Grossman is a good place to start…but now I’ll need to read the other translations!
What a journey. I don’t even know how to begin collecting all the updates that I shared as I kept reading. This is an absolutely fantastic, delightful read. What Cervantes accomplishes here is astonishing and there are several aspects that have absorbed and fascinated me. It’s content-rich and a fabulous, amusing journey.
-It offers a great panorama of Spain of the time, along with problems, relations with Moors. It’s rich in descriptions of some customs, traditions, like weddings. And more than that, an archive of chivalric romances that didn’t last to our times.
-Cervantes deals with a lot of tropes common to chivalric romances, and he gives them a possibility to be seen within the narratives. We explore various what-ifs, and various fantastic adventures common to chivalric romances are parodied. But it’s fascinating how Don Quixote sees one thing, but what really happens is a lot different. There are many fantastic adventures in this novel as a result, things that would make great fantasy if they weren’t treated with such lovely biting realism. You will meet giants posed as windmills, enchanted heads, enchanters, flying horses, visions in caves. They are all amusing and what’s more, a lot of the adventures are devised by other characters for their own amusement, and they cover an amazing range of scenarios: from fights with windmill thought to be giants to sea adventures and sieges of towns.
While they are parodies that laugh at Quixote and knights-errant, they are also a commentary on how fiction can make our lives more colourful. Quixote might be the subject of jokes, not all of them nice, but he is still a sympathetic and lovable character and his belief in the magical is lovely because instead of mundane reality he sees wonders. And I love that. We can also treat his story from the perspective of mental health. There are also stories upon stories of numerous characters, a lot of them love stories that end with various results: some happy (much to my delight), others not so. Cardenio and Luscinda and then the story of the captive captain and then the story of Ana Felix and don Gaspardo are among my favourites I also loved the enchanted talking head (very inventive), the encounter with Knight of Mirrors and White moon, the puppet theatre and the actors….and so many others, I can’t even name them! The book is super amusing in its duality: putting down what Cervantes considered absurdities of chivalric romances, but at the same time giving life to them in the imagination of Don Quixote. Those adventures made it possible to explore various what-ifs. What if Sancho was a governor, for instance. Quixote and Sancho ended up being protagonists within the story but also within stories/plots created for them by others – this is magnificent! It’s like Q and Sancho become protagonists of a reality show within the story.
-It’s fascinating how the characters know they have been the protagonists of a published book and how the story deals with the process of writing. There also some unsettling scenes about censorship and book burning, probably indicative of Cervantes’ dislike for chivalric romances.
-Back to characters: there are so many, including shrewd and strong-minded women, Moors, captives, lords, doctors, actors…Cervantes really covered a whole spectrum and for me, it’s part of the reason why this book is so priceless!
Also, while I did feel a certain dislike for the bad intentions behind some of the adventures/pranks devised for Quixote (Duke and Duchess, I’m looking at you), I also thought them amusing and this book made me chuckle a lot. And as I say, for me this part was also about how stories we devise may make our lives more interesting, so in the end, I forgive them. I love Quixote and his imagination though, even if I think Cervantes could have been less harsh in places.
The book is incredible. Don Quixote is both sympathetic and lovable but can also be read as a pompous madman, it depends on you, the reader, what you choose to see. His imagination drives him to see reality in a more wonderful way and I think it’s wonderful, the adventures are many and all are amusing and interesting! in short, for me, there is a lot of amazing content in this book.
It’s been an amazing journey. I read this book over a period of two months. I will miss Quixote and Sancho. And I will definitely reread this gem of a story at some point. Perhaps in a different translation to compare. The Edith Grossman one has been very enjoyable.
The story has inspired me to create a playlist.