In books we live a thousand lives and adventures

In short, our gentleman became so caught up in reading that he spent his nights reading from dusk till dawn and his days reading from sunrise to sunset, and so with too little sleep and too much reading his brains dried up, causing him to lose his mind. His fantasy filled with everything he had read in his books, enchantments as well as combats, battles, challenges, wounds, courtings, loves, torments, and other impossible foolishness, and he became so convinced in his imagination of the truth of all the countless grandiloquent and false inventions he read that for him no history in the world was truer.

Don quixote

He would forget himself, and beforehand live in his mind the sea-life of light literature. He saw himself saving people from sinking ships, cutting away masts in a hurricane, swimming through a surf with a line; or as a lonely castaway, barefooted and half naked, walking on uncovered reefs in search of shellfish to stave off starvation. He confronted savages on tropical shores, quelled mutinies on the high seas, and in a small boat upon the ocean kept up the hearts of despairing men — always an example of devotion to duty, and as unflinching as a hero in a book.

lord jim

Book let us live a thousand lives, after all.

Two quotes I felt were similar in the way they point out how books stimulate the imagination. Except I find Don Quixote a lot more likeable in his quests, he’s genuine in the way he lives in his own version of the world and experiences it in his own way. He’s still there, in the same place as other characters, just sees a different side to things and sees things from his own side.

Jim is mostly just escaping from himself. He escapes into fiction (Patusan), because he’s unable to deal with his reality and in a way, he realises his dreams of becoming an idealistic hero from a fictional story. That’s what I love about Lord Jim, I think, the way that status of the protagonist is sort of returned to where the character fits? Patusan is like a book of adventures he’s read. It’s where he wants to be. He becomes distant, unreal (“unknowable”) to Marlow, who has cared about him. There is however that one scene towards the end of the book where they say farewell for the final time and I felt a lot of emotion in that scene. I love that friendship because Marlow tries to pull him out and set in reality, even though he is doomed to fail, but the way he cares is precious, Jim is lucky to have a friend in Marlow.

In turn, Don Quixote pulls his friend Sancho into his world and the two adventure together.

Two friendships, two characters dreaming of a book-like life, two different ways in which they realise that dream. I prefer don Quixote, because it’s a book way richer in experiences adventures – including metafictional ones and I find Quixote a lot more likeable and honest in the way he sort of turns reality into something more magical, but Jim is a great read too. The friendship theme is strong in both, but I prefer Marlow’s practical, but kind interest in his young protege. The characters surrounding Don Quixote, who try to pull him out of his fantasy, are precisely unsympathetic and at times threatening in the way they try to bring Quixote back. Sometimes they just have a laugh at his expense, though I appreciated the approach the younger character in Book 2 of Don Quixote picked, even disguising himself as a knight.

Both characters are quixotic but I really feel Lord Jim is a lot more destructive. Quixote keeps PERMANENTLY seeing reality as wonderful and magical,  and keeps performing actions he sees as his chivalric duty – he does them consistently and faithful to the ideal! Cervantes might have hated chivalric romances and Quixote might be a parody but he’s still super likeable in his quest. Whereas Jim in the critical moment is stopped short from his duties, he’s frozen, scared unlike the heroes in his books. In the quote on Jim and Jim’s story it does actually become poignant how the reality of the book feels so much more palpable to Jim.

I love both books. And both characters,  and love thinking about these texts in terms of the power of fiction to inspire, dream but also the consequences it might have

Both books have many things to say, and I find them both insanely clever. I think about them, there are a lot of great parts and themes to consider. These are the sort of books I value, they change something inside you, they don’t let go of you, they make you think about them forever.

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