Don Quixote read-along. Recap post


Don Quixote read-along
with Lory  at The Emerald City


To keep everything in one place, I have decided to do this recap post, including here my comments on Lory’s blog.

ON CHAPTERS 1-20 (the link is Lory’s post – and here are the comments I added there):

Apart from the element you highlighted in your post about perception of reality, I also like more literary points in this work, and I’m glad to have them back in volume 2, for instance the opinions on chivalry books, and the idea of a book within a book, as we see in the Dedication of this volume, and all along the first chapters.

Another literary element I like is the author’s reflections on genre. We already had some of those in volume 1. Here we find them for instance in chapter 3 about history/poetry: “now and then beginning to show signs of being in his right mind”.
And some hilarious plays on words, like on grammar and gram + mar! And both Teresa and Sancho use words for other words.

It is also interesting to see mentions of reaction to the first volume. It made me curious, and I read that volume 2 was actually originally published as a sequel, 10 years after the first volume. That’s a long time, for a book now considered as one unit, and I’m looking forward to seeing the differences.
If you take these reactions for granted, you may think that the reception of the work was poorly. But what’s real? What’s to believe?
Should I trust Cervantes, or Wikipedia? For once, I’ll believe Wikipedia, which tells me the work was an immediate success, with even pirated editions!

I like how Cervantes tries to fool us, when he presents Don Quixote “now and then beginning to show signs of being in his right mind” (chapter 1). Did you believe him? I actually didn’t, because what would have caused that change? And so obviously, we see little by little that his case might even be worse!

And like in volume 1, those around him start making fun of him.
And now Sancho is totally deluded himself! We discover a slightly different person in his way of speaking, when he is with his wife Teresa. But she is the one reasonable and down to earth.
However, Sancho can also perceive the truth on Don Quixote and himself: “I have seen by a thousand signs that this master of mine is a madman fit to be tied, and for that matter, I too, am not behind him; for I’m a greater fool than he is when I follow him and serve him, if there’s any truth in the proverb that says, ‘Tell me what company thou keepest, and I’ll tell thee what thou art,’ or in that other, ‘Not with whom thou art bred, but with whom thou art fed”. (chap 10) And he can be very logical on how to treat his master based on the situation.


Sancho Panza’s character
strikes me more and more. He can now openly show his feelings. He is vexed and dejected at the end of Chapter 21.
And he can be very plain about what he thinks: “I hold my master Don Quixote to be stark mad” (chapter 33).
This makes his relationship with his master sometimes more tenses. DQ even gets mad at him in chapter 28.
He can also very realist, like here in chapter 28:
I would do a great deal better, I say, to go home to my wife and children and support them and bring them up on what God may please to give me, instead of following your worship along roads that lead nowhere and paths that are none at all, with little to drink and less to eat.” But will he ever act on it?
Sancho sometimes shows to be very smart, and some of his plays with words can reveal stupidity or real craft. I love this thing on Ptolemy: “putrid Dolly something transmogrified” (chapter 29). Kudos to the translator!!

I found chapter 21 to be totally hilarious, with the long discourse of one on the point of dying, the trick, the acceptance of the bridegroom, and the disappointment of Sancho for the festivities he missed!
I enjoy some snippets of wisdom, even though some readers may think this is just over the top and just plain hilarious or ridiculous. For instance:
it was the opinion of a certain sage, I know not whom, that there was not more than one good woman in the whole world; and his advice was that each one should think and believe that this one good woman was his own wife, and in this way he would live happy” (Chapter 22).

I’m not too sure what to make of Chapter 23. A mix with Roncevaux and Merlin? sounds almost like Gulliver’s adventures. What’ s the point? It’s not presented as if DQ was making it up. Like a trance? A religious experience?
I’d like to go back to my question, what’s the point? The more I read this book, the more I’m confused about its deep meaning. I can see how funny it is, but I also feel I’m missing what’s really the goal of the author. So it sounds I sure also read some deeper studies on the work to fully appreciate it. Thanks Lory, for commenting on these chapters at a deeper level, and shading great light, as if you had read my questions ahead!
There are definitely passages criticizing the rulers, like this one in chapter 32: “there are a hundred round about us that scarcely know how to read, and govern like gerfalcons”.

In this same chapter 23, we are reaching some point beyond return for DQ: he is now so deluded that he even thinks he sees and touches what has been nourishing his imagination. His delusion is not just mental, it has invaded his very senses. Though chapter 24 gives a special light on this evolution, by adding, “though certain it is they say that at the time of his death he retracted, and said he had invented it, thinking it matched and tallied with the adventures he had read of in his histories.”

And in chapter 31: “this was the first time that he thoroughly felt and believed himself to be a knight-errant in reality.” Though he also admits living it to the extreme: “everything or almost everything that happens me transcends the ordinary limits of what happens to other knights-errant” (chapter 32)

Reflecting the interest of the times in Europe, there’s a good amount of presence of ‘exotic animals’. We had a lion, a bear, and now an ape (chapter 25).

All along, we have DQ seeing no difference between the novels he read and his own life as a knight. He crosses the border between literature and life even further in chapter 26, as he forgets what he sees is not for real, but a play: “Don Quixote, however, seeing such a swarm of Moors and hearing such a din, thought it would be right to aid the fugitives, and standing up he exclaimed in a loud voice…
As usual, the explanation he gives later about it is of having been fooled by enchantments.

The end of chapter 26 shows DQ as being very generous, and rich. Indeed, how was able to stay away, and what does he live on? I forgot, does the author ever explain where DQ’s wealth is coming from? Is there a critique here of how rich people of his time are living in useless purposes, far from reality?
“Heart of butter-past” (chapter 29): I should have made the list of all the hilarious insults!

Be sure to visit and read all the fascinating comments



Don Quixote read-along. Part 2, the end


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!


Don Quixote read-along. Part 2, chapters 11-20


Don Quixote read-along.
Part 2, chapters 11-20

As mentioned some time ago, I have decided to pursue my reading of Don Quixote with Lory of The Emerald City.

As we had already read Part I, we started together at Part 2.
You can read here her comments and mine on the first chapters, posted on April 7.

I have been very slow on this, because of other time consuming projects, and also technical issues. But I have found a solution, and now plan to keep reading on a regular basis.

So without further ado, here are my (meager) comments for chapters 11-20.
I’m sure Lory will have much more to add, so please come back to read her comments.

In this part, I find Sancho morphing more and more, and definitely much more cultivated and apt with words:

Sancho recalled him from his reverie. “Melancholy, senor,” said he, “was made, not for beasts, but for men; but if men give way to it overmuch they turn to beasts; control yourself, your worship; be yourself again; gather up Rocinante’s reins; cheer up, rouse yourself and show that gallant spirit that knights-errant ought to have. What the devil is this? What weakness is this? Are we here or in France?
chapter 11

Don Quixote himself sees him as the “good Sancho, sensible Sancho, Christian Sancho, honest Sancho”.
But of course, more crazy adventures are expected.

Chapter 16 on poetry is not without recalling all the passages in the first part about chivalry novels, though Don Quixote manifests here a very open mind in the matter. Who is, by the way, still considered by others as a madman (see chapter 17).

I really enjoyed the confusion introduced by the “Knight of Mirrors” who claims he has vanquished Don Quixote, and how the dialogue evolves between them. Though Sancho recognizes the squire as his neighbor!
As usual though, Don Quixote cannot accept such a simple truth that would not involve some type of magic!