Don Quixote: Miguel de Cervantes, May 27—30, 2015
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
This seminal novel, widely regarded as the first modern novel, is a Spanish classic and is revered in the same way as Shakespeare in the UK. It tells the story of Don Quixote de la Mancha, the Knight of the Rueful Countenance, a man who becomes so obsessed with his chivalrous novels that he believes himself to be a knight and duly sets forth on adventures befitting his station.
As satire goes, this is a very witty piece. Don lurches from one disaster to the next, often having the opposite effect from that which he intended. One of the funniest scenes involves his barber and the curator essentially holding a trial for each of his books as if they are human prisoners, condemning many to execution. The deadpan seriousness of the ridiculous escapades makes it hilarious.
Another key strength of the book is the various narrative techniques employed in its respective parts, with Cervantes adopting the role of narrator, biographer and character at various stages. He truly explores the possibilities of books.
Though the language is dense, it’s worth persevering with. It does, after all, coin such phrases as “Tell me the company you keep and I’ll tell you what you are.” It is ironic, perhaps, that this English translation so eloquently includes dialogue which claims translated books are never as good as those in their original language.
This key, classic book offers much to the world of literacy and is a ripping great yarn for those who take the time to read it.