Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes: Book Review

Don Quixote is a Spanish novel by Miguel De Cervantes, published in two parts in 1605 and 1615. The English translation was published in 1612 and 1620.

The book that I read is translated by John Ormsby. According to him, ‘This novel, a satire of romantic chivalry, provides a window on 17th century Spain.’ In the introduction, he writes about various translations, and whether they had been true to the original Spanish text, keeping in view that Spanish as a language has not changed much in comparison to the other European languages.

Don Quixote‘ is the story of Alonso Quixada, a gentleman of about 50 years living with his niece and housekeepers at La Mancha. He has read far too many books on chivalry and begins to believe himself to be a knight. He takes up the name of Don Quixote, the knight-errant on the look-out for adventures.

He designates a poor farm girl as Dulcinea del Toboso as his lady love, for whom he has set out on this heroic adventure and at the end of it, his chivalry would win over her. Don Quixote’s first adventure is at an inn which he calls a castle and stops by to guard his horse and armour. Things end in a bad shape and a beaten-up Don Quixote is thrown by the side of the road.

To Don Quixote’s niece and housekeeper, he seems to be going through a crazy phase owing to the ill effects of reading too many books. His niece and the housekeeper at the mansion seal the room with his books, hoping that once the books are gone, perhaps Quixote will gain sanctity. It is interesting to note how books are segregated on the basis of the impact that it might have on Quixote. Only books on spirituality are available to Quixote. And, it does yield a calming effect.

On midnight, after a month of normalcy, Don Quixote leaves his house at midnight with old, rusty armour and his horse, Rocinante. On his way, he asks a labourer from the neighbourhood, Sancho Panza to become his faithful squire in pursuit of the adventures. Sancho is overcome by the proposal of receiving an island in return of his services and leaves immediately with his donkey.

Is it comic or pure tragedy?

It indeed treads on that thin, blurred line to take the story forward. For what Don Quixote sees as ‘knight coming towards us on a dappled grey sted, who has upon his head a helmet of gold?’ Sancho sees, ‘only a man on a grey ass like my own, who has something that shines on his head.

Between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza there are a number of adventures narrated to us; almost all of them ending in greatest of mishaps with being beaten black and blue and looted. Yet, Don Quixote can only see optimism and his rise in chivalry. But Sancho Panza says, 

“…according to my small wits, would be for us to return home, now that it is harvest time, and attend to our business, and give over wandering from Zeca to Mecca and from pail to bucket, as the saying is.”

Sancho Panza comes across as an endearing character, with his innocence and initial faith in Don Quixote to his continuity in participating in his master’s insanities. There is a part where Sancho tells the tale of a goat shepherd and shepherdess in a village of Estremudura. The two are in love and have to cross a river, but before that the shepherd has to let his goat cross over.

The tale ends on a bizarre note where the listener has to correctly answer the number of goats that were crossed over. The story is narrated in a repeated way. I guess it is the eccentricity of these two characters that keep them together as a pair in their journey forward as Knight-errant and his squire.

Cervantes introduces the character of Cide Hamete Benengali, an Arab historian as the actual creator of Don Quixote book of adventures. The first person narrator who feels disappointed at the abrupt ending of one of the adventures of Don Quixote is Cervantes. A chance that he finds the manuscript on the adventures of Don Quixote at a shop and is delighted to get it translated. He wonders whether the Arab author has been true to his job at translation or not as Egpytians had been atrocious to Spanish literature.

Part two of the book is based on the assumption that people have read the glorious adventures of Don Quixote. So, when the duo set out on their adventure, people know them. Now the two are played upon the pranks of a Duke and Duchess.  

The realm of Metafiction in Don Quixote is what keeps you intrigued. I have always been biased towards classic literature. The richness of these tales written in a time when life had completely different meaning brings a part of that era to you.

This post is a part of #BlogchatterA2Z challenge under Alphabet Q

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7 thoughts on “Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes: Book Review

  1. Pingback: The Intimidating Longest Books on my TBR – Bookishloom

  2. Great post! I loved this book. I've also seen it as a play, twice. (Once in a proper theater, and once as performed by a school.) J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

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