Don Quixote read-along.
Part 2, the end: chapters 38-74
My previous post is here.
Finally. After starting reading Book 2 around March, I just finished it. My co-reader, Lory of The Emerald City, finished a few months ago, please see here her wonderful post on her experience.
Our reactions are rather similar, I think. We both enjoyed very much some passages, but as a whole, Book 2 felt very different and disappointing, compared to book 1.
I personally dragged my feet to finish it. To be honest, it was much easier going through the 7 long books of In Search of Lost Time by Proust, than the last 35 chapters or so of Don Quixote.
It was disappointing for me because I had a hard time seeing the whole picture, and was bored and upset by so many episodes where it seemed the only goal was to ridicule our two main protagonists.
There were also too many repetitions to my taste about the issue of Sancho flogging himself or not for the sake of Dulcinea – even though the scene where he flogs the trees instead is pretty funny!
The end was flat and disappointing: Don Quixote’s mental ambivalence is resolved in a disappointing way: suddenly, on his death bed, he seems to be clearly all wise.
And even though these passages were more boring, I felt disappointed not to stay in company of Don Quixote for a book 3, where he would have led the life of a shepherd. There could have been lots of interesting elements on pastoral literature or music.
It seemed the author was just as bored as I was, and found no other solution than to kill Don Quixote over the course of a few days.
But let me share with you some aspects I really enjoyed:
- Actually, as Lory has hinted, it often fell that the real hero was Sancho. I really enjoyed the evolution of his character all along. If he’s originally presented as somewhat stupid, there are many examples where he shows his humor and smart plays with words (and many proverbs!!), such as this hilarious passage where he imitates the style of the Duenna who just spoke:
“The Panza is here,” said Sancho, before anyone could reply, “and Don Quixotissimus too; and so, most distressedest Duenissima, you may say what you willissimus, for we are all readissimus to do you any servissimus.” (chapter 38). I should check the original Spanish here, but I found the translation really well done for the effect.He definitely proves his down to earth wisdom in the whole episode about his governing of “the island”, and what he takes out of his experience. Even if some readers may find in this Cervantes’s not too subtle thoughts on ruling powers of his age.
The author’s opinions are also beautifully displayed in the advice that Don Quixote gives to his squire before he starts his governing (chapter 43).
Too bad some of our current leaders probably never took time to read this book, and would have no idea how to apply this before-the-age-of-twitter wisdom in their daily ruling.
- I also enjoyed all the poems and songs inserted here and there, and their humor.
- Chapter 56 and around displayed an interesting narrative technique, and it’s possible this was the first time it was done in literature: when Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are separated, we follow their adventures alternatively. The author leaves us hanging about what happened to one for a while, while he tells us about the other. This is a technique I enjoyed a lot in 1Q84 by Murakami, but it was neat to see it so early at play in world literature.
- The ambivalence started in Book 1 keeps going about Don Quixote’s state of mind, until almost the end of the book. Earlier on, we still often find such similar passages:
On the one hand they regarded him as a man of wit and sense, and on the other he seemed to them a maundering blockhead, and they could not make up their minds whereabouts between wisdom and folly they ought to place him. (chapter 59)
- There are less passages on writing than in Book 1, but some are real pearls, such as this one on translation:
Still it seems to me that translation from one language into another, if it be not from the queens of languages, the Greek and the Latin, is like looking at Flemish tapestries on the wrong side; for though the figures are visible, they are full of threads that make them indistinct, and they do not show with the smoothness and brightness of the right side; and translation from easy languages argues neither ingenuity nor command of words, any more than transcribing or copying out one document from another. (chapter 62)
So now Don Quixote is dead, and I’m done reading all his adventures!
BUT is he really dead? Not so sure, as his influence in literature is everlasting. Proof be the book I’m currently reading: the latest by Salman Rushdie, entitled Quichotte! Please come back in a few weeks to see my review on Don Quixote 2.0!
WHAT DO YOU THINK
ABOUT THESE CHAPTERS?
ANYTHING SPECIAL YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
Yes, you agree with me about Sancho! He made the whole book worthwhile for me. I love the idea of Book Three with DQ as a shepherd though. That could have been great, but I do think Cervantes was tired of him and wanted to kill him off.
Thanks again for the readalong. Looking forward to your thoughts on Quichotte–and mine too, if I get through it. 🙂
Quichotte: after the hilarious beginning, it gets bogged down a bit, but after, it gets better again. Perseverance is the word, I guess Cervantes gave us a good lesson for it, lol
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Well done for finishing it. I simply couldn’t go on. I started part 2 but quickly realised it was going to be more of the same. Yet curiously, I too have lined up to read Rushdie’s Quichotte. The things we do 🙂
I think perseverance is needed also for Rushdie’s , but it’s quite fascinating!
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Good! You finished. And such a classic. Plus the new Edith Grossman translation. I am impressed and, as you say, reading such an influential book always enhances my reading of other books in the long run.
actually that was not this edition. I put that cover, because the ebook version I read had a cover for each volume, and they were not very nice. Very sad of me, I haven’t mentioned the translator’s name, even though I mentioned he did a great job in some passages. It is John Ormsby
Glad you have finished both volumes! Congrats! I remember thinking Volume 2 was quite impressive for its rather modern awareness of the “real-world” notoriety of Volume 1 of the pair’s exploits. This interested me especially at the time, since I was looking for evidence of the influence of the characters themselves in our world–beings who begin as fictional and end as objects of wonder and companionship in our lives.
Delighted you are planning to read Quichotte! I saw the Time magazine review, which fairly pulsated with praise for this latest novel. He is surely an author whose writing gifts seem well-suited to reimagining such a picaresque figure, who stretches imagination and credulity! I will look forward to your thoughts on it.
Great input. I’m planning a written interview with Silvia on Don Quixote, maybe I should interview both of you on this. What do you think?
Thank you, but no, I have not read it recently enough for that. But I will read your interview with Silvia with great interest!
ok, no problem
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