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To Dream The Impossible Dream
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
Member Name: cyberem78
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
Date: 30/04/13, updated on 30/04/13 (38 review reads)
Advantages: Entertaining. Great stories and characters.
Disadvantages: Some difficult to read parts.
I first heard of this book, 'Don Quixote' by Miguel De Cervantes, when I was sixteen years old. I had seen a snippet of the musical 'Man Of La Mancha' which is based on this novel and it had made me curious about reading the book. I have to admit I wasn't really an experienced reader in those days and went into the bookshop with a note because I couldn't pronounce the title! I had no idea what to expect but I was a bit worried it would be too highbrow for me at that age. When I started reading the novel I was really surprised by how enjoyable it was. I was transfixed throughout and at the end of the novel felt that it was the best thing I'd ever read. I have since read the novel many times and often just pick up my copy and open it at a random place and start reading. Nowadays, if someone asks me what my favourite book is I always say that it is 'Don Quixote' as it's everything that a great book should be.
I have a Penguin Classics paperback version of this book. It's quite a hefty novel as there are two parts. Each section is divided into smaller chapters which vary in length and which punctuate natural progressions in the story. My copy of the book also contains a translator's introduction since the novel was first translated from Spanish for this version in 1950. It's not essential to do so but reading a little about the author as printed at the beginning of the book can help you to appreciate how aspects of this story came to life. Cervantes is certainly a very interesting person with a fascinating history.
'Don Quixote' (pronounced 'don kee-ho-tay) is the most famous of all Spanish novels and one of the most celebrated. An allusion to the novel has even been etched onto Spanish currency. The author wrote this originally with the intention of mocking traditional ballads in addition to creating a parody of heroic knight's tales. So basically the story is one of comedy although to state it's only a comedy is to seriously undersell it.
The story is based around a man who is no longer young and whose place in life seems to be that of living a rather ordinary life with his niece and his housekeeper. This man has an abundance of time and he fills this by reading stories about knight errantry. He reads so much that he becomes obsessed and at the height of this craze he begins to believe that he is in fact a knight himself. He renames himself 'Don Quixote de La Mancha', adopts a female muse to whom he pledges undying love and allegiance, packs his horse and finds himself a squire or companion called Sancho Panza and sets off to make the world a better place.
The entirety of the novel focuses on the adventures Don Quioxote and Panza have together. A lot of the comedy is attached to the character of Panza who is a na´ve but loveable fellow. Other humour arises due to the fact that Quixote is so mad that he simply cannot see reality as everyone else sees it. This means he sees lots of grandeur and glory in the most base situations. Other characters seek to exploit the insanity of the eponymous hero and their cheeky tricks never fail to amuse.
The characters of Quixote and Panza are very likeable and their relationship is that of an odd couple. They are completely different people but it feels like they belong together. Most of the dialogue is written to amuse the reader and Panza's long-winded proverbs are some of the best moments. Towards the end of the second book there is a more serious tone where it feels like the author has suddenly tired of writing about his hero and wants to inject a greater sense of reality and tragedy into the story. It is rather like the way that the television series Blackadder ended with a last charge towards the enemy lines. The novel ends rather sadly and by doing so puts a completey different spin on what has gone before.
I love this novel because I identify a lot with Don Quixote. I also see the world quite differently from most other people I know and for that I face adversary, scorn and hardship. How Quixote approaches such obstacles to continue on his path as he visualises it is inspirational and motivational. Sancho Panza may be a droll fool but his proverbs are didactic and thought-provoking. I love learning about the dynamics of their relationship too.
There are a couple of stretches in the novel which are hard to read because historically the contents are so far removed from what I know or understand. Parts of the book are written in ballad or poetry forms which is challenging. Overall though this is certainly a book that any serious reader should attempt. It's an epic novel that stays with you forever.
Summary: My favourite book.