The Adventures of Don Quixote (Spain)

Unrated. Absolutely without rating.

The Ingenious Man of La Mancha is very interesting from a historical perspective. It really brings home the closeness of Spain and Morocco when you read about the Barbary Coast pirates sailing over for an evening’s raid and then tucking themselves up in their beds before dawn.

I would like to know how strong the Inquisition was in Spain at the time of the writing, because I was never sure if Cervantes makes the priests and religious characters so good because he thought they were, or because he’s afraid of the Church. And of course, any sarcasm would be lost in translation as I don’t speak Spanish.

I did like that the translator, Edith Grossman, would footnote when there was an untranslatable pun and tell me which words in Spanish were being fooled around with. I enjoyed the humorous bits of the book and of course the catty criticisms of other authors and works of fiction.

I did not enjoy the device that the book had been written by a Cede Benengeli and that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were aware of their adventures being memorialized–I think meta-fiction today and meta-fiction 400 years ago only distracts, disturbs, and keeps you from being able to believe in the story. I also did not enjoy Cervantes’ jabs at the author of the fake Don Quixote. Dude, who cares? Especially 400 years later. Nor did I like having “mini-stories” distracting from the main story–the first one I skipped entirely. We’re just not used to that kind of storytelling anymore. Get to the point!

It was strange and felt sloppy to have so many errors in the book, like Sancho’s wife being called Juana and then Teresa. That’s the kind of thing my bookgroup would never let me get away with!

Still, for having been written that long ago, there were some amazing bits. I liked the occasional humorous remark at the expense of the French, for example, and Sancho Panza’s aphorisms are priceless. That was a unique experience for me in all of literature, the way he strings them together but gets them just a little bit wrong.

I think my favorite parts of the story were in the first chapter, when the priest and the barber are discussion which books to burn, since novels have driven Don Quixote mad, and the priest saves out a few because he hasn’t read them yet…also in the mini-story of the escaped Christian and the Arab woman who wanted to be a Christian…and the part where Don Quixote and Sancho come to the forest where they’ve hanged all the bandits.

Oooh, my ride is here. Not a Rocinante or a grey donkey, but a blue Subaru. More on this later.

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