Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
So, somewhere along the lines–approximately at the beginning of this school semester–I fell way behind in the Don Quixote read-a-long. Sorry, everyone! But I did finally finish it last week. Which I’m a little sad about, because I had grown so accustomed to laughing along to new Don Quixote and Sancho Panza adventures on a regular basis, and had become quite fond of those two. In fact, yes, I wish the book had been even longer. But, better to be left wanting more, I guess.
A short synopsis of the story:
Don Quixote, a sixteenth century man living in the Spanish countryside, is enamored with books of chivalry, which he believes to be truthful in their entirety. Though a reasonable, practical man on all other fronts, his imagination runs wild on the subject of knight-errantry and he decides to leave his house and take up the traditions of knighthood, roaming the countryside to right wrongs in honor of his Lady Dulcinea of El Toboso (a neighbor who has no idea of Don Quixote’s proposed love or doings). He enlists his neighbor Sancho Panza to be his squire, and together they get into a great number of laughable situations and mishaps. They are a dynamic comedic duo who can’t stay out of trouble, and are often led into it due to Don Quixote’s delusions of grandeur and danger. Everything he sees gets incorporated into his fantasy of knighthood: a field of windmills is mistaken for a gathering of giants, a herd of goats for an invading army, and a washbasin for the helmet of Mambrino. Everything that appears as incompatible with his fantasy is interpreted as the work of a devious “enchanter” who is out to hinder Don Quixote’s fight for justice. The people they encounter find him charming and indulge him, others try to bring him back to his senses, and others still simply have no idea what to think of him and are swept along in his fantastical narrative.
What most struck me about the book was how modern it seems. The humor is almost slapstick at times, the author is self-referential, and there are plenty of stories within the larger story (which I absolutely loved–learning the back stories of all the newly introduced characters added meaningful layers to the many things that were going on, and was fun!). I’m sure, too, that it provides numerous commentaries on that period of Spanish history, which I would need much more background information to make a constructive comment about.
I wasn’t sure that this book was going to be quite my thing, and was a bit intimidated by it. So I thank Stu at Winston’s Dad’s Blog for hosting the read-a-long and inspiring me to try it. If he hadn’t, I may never have read what is now an established favorite! If you feel the same way about Don Quixote as I did, I encourage you to give it a try anyway–I almost guarantee it will surprise you! It is hilarious and easy to read, which makes the length no obstacle. And it’s a nice reminder of the powers of the imagination–for both good and bad.
I will miss my regular installments of Don Quixote, which had become an integral part of my weekly routine (when not busy otherwise). In fact, this is a book I can DEFINITELY see reading again, maybe even more than once. And I hardly ever feel that way. Sigh. Nostalgic for it already!