Monday, December 5, 2011

#339 / Quixote

I am reluctant to admit that I have never read what is often called the "first true novel," Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. Published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, the book was originally titled, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha).

Thanks to the Santa Cruz Public Library, and to its books on tape collection, I have now at least "listened" to the entire book, which means 35 compact disks. The Recorded Books edition is an extremely well done modern translation by Edith Grossman, narrated by George Guidall. It's better than reading; at least that's my bet.

Don Quixote, who "lived in madness but died sane," which was held to be a blessing by his biographer, became very "real" to me during the course of the book. The book, in fact, became more of a "biography" than a "story," and an interesting thing is that this was true for those alive in 1605, too, after the first part was published.

The biographical components of the story seemed so compelling, and painted such a "realistic" portrait of its two main characters, that some other author (not Cervantes) began to write stories about Quixote, and Part II of the Don Quixote we know spends a good bit of time having Quixote confront real people who had come in contact with the unauthorized and erroneous Part II, published by someone else, setting them straight as to the real "truth" of his existence. You can get a good summary of how this worked in the Wikipedia article.

Consistent with my "model" of how the world works, the "dreams" of Don Quixote definitely precipitated actual historical realities, or at least this is the conceit of the book. When things went wrong, as they so often did for Don Quixote and Sancho, his Squire, Don Quixote attributed the problems to the "enchanters" who made the genuine realities of Don Quixote's world turn into appearances at odds with that "reality."

We, too, need to overcome the "enchantments" that convince us that things are "true" and "real" that we know should not be so; that we know, in fact, must not be allowed to be so. In this way, we, with Don Quixote, will fight on for the beautiful reality we know is the "truth" of our existence.

Happiness, indeed, may be to "sally forth" in this madness, for as we act upon our dreams and desires, we create the world in which we truly live.


  1. I too read this book as an adult. I actually fought it all the way, resenting the pastorals and other digressions almost all the way to the end.

    But then, in one of those strange transmogrifications that sometimes happens with books, I realized in the end that I loved the book and even it's every flaw.

    Thanks for the audio rec. It would be a good way to go a second time.

  2. Even though I was on the audio track, I had very much the same reaction you did, start to end. By the end, I was in love with the book!

  3. Nice to have a confirmation of that experience.

    If you haven't read it, check out Graham Greene's Monsieur Quixote as a chaser.

  4. Uh, make that Monsignor Quixote.

  5. I will be off to hunt down the Graham Greene. I read a lot of Greene many years ago, but I don't think I know Monsignor Quixote. Thanks, Seana.


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