Ho, ho, ho! Summer reading project done before Christmas! Yes, the book is finished. Did you hear the firecrackers flying in Pennsylvania the other night? 907 pages, but who was counting? (I was, and I’m afraid you might have been, too.) So we can all breathe a sigh and look back to see what we read and see if we would recommend the book.
Yes! we would! It’s one heck of a good book and is on MANY good reading lists with good reason (imho. ) Cervantes was a genius–completely off the wall and I think I’ve mentioned that I laughed many times as I read along.
Quixote, born with surname Quesade, was a poor man, a born sinner as we all are, and started to read about knights—knights-errant–or those who feel that their missions in life were to strike out into the great world and DO GOOD deeds.
And, like many of us, who find an interesting subject and then read all we can about it, he continued and continued to read about these mythical knight-errants until it became a fixation in his mind that he must follow their example. Nothing would sway him otherwise. His housekeeper and niece who lived with him worried about his foolish intentions, but still he pursued his dreams. The village curate and barber who were his friends couldn’t dissuade him. Quixote thought about his horse and wondered if it was good enough for a knight-errant and his work. It wasn’t. It was an old nag. STill, DQ gave him a glorious name————Rocinante, and then set out to find himself a helpmate or squire, for in his readings, the knight-errants always had a squire.
He settled on a nearby farmer/neighbor, Sancho Panza, and persuaded him that life would be good, grand, better if he helped DQ accomplish his dreams. He promised Sancho that when he won battles, he’d gain land, and islands and that he would give Sancho an island of his own and that he, Sancho, would become governor of it–a very important person!
By the way, Cervantes style is shown a little here in that the surname of “Panza” in Spanish means “belly”. See? our little inside joke aleady!
Sancho, being a simple man, was easily talked into being “DQ’s” squire, and he chooses an old burro of his own to accompany him and DQ on their adventures. He names the burro, Dapple, for his coloring.
Too much information? Wrong–not nearly enough, but I can’t outline the
whole 907 pages here, so I’ll choose to give you some quotations from the book that had meaning for me. (in a minute or two, first another comment.)
In an old book Button Classics by Erwina Crouse and Marguerite Maple copyright 1941–long ago, and early on, I read a very small review of Don Quixote and the author said that ‘only after many ridiculous adventures, Quixote is returned to his village where he recovers his wits.” So many times did I recall that
wonderful adjective “ridiculous” for that’s a perfect description of the adventures throughout the book–ridiculous! I don’t know which author wrote that little blurb————– she was giving the reader of the button book a brief review of the gist of the story to go along with the description of the old buttons denoting the classic. And it was an accurate description!
Later, I found a button of my own and was happy to see that it matched the photo in the old Button Classics book. Here’s a photo of the button with DQ and Sancho busy fighting windmills–the most famous scene everyone seems to be familiar with.
One of the very first adventures of the two is when they see in the distance some windmills on the horizon. Quixote mistakenly believes they are GIANTS
scheming to defeat him.
Sancho knows differently, of course, but cannot keep DQ from charging them and slashing at them with his lance. Unfortunately the windmills are turning and Quixote and Rocinante suffer serious wounds. Sancho and the reader begin to see the way things will go from hereon –and it is disturbing reading about it.
There are many schemes and adventures in the 907 pages and many of them involve a “curate” and a “barber” trying to trick DQ into giving up his knight-
errant dreams and return home. After awhile, the reader (or I at least) am happy to have some level headed adults in the book and it is comforting to know that someone is looking out for Quixote from his old village.
Cervantes was a writer and also a poet. He has cleverly included some of this
poetry, attributing it to a character–this time Don Lorenzo. The lovely poem that Lorenzo orates and is copied within the text is:
“Could ‘was’ become an ‘is’ for me
Then would I ask no more than this
Or could, the time that is for me
Become the time that is to be!”
The time- old theme of wishing for the past spans the centuries between the time of the writing (1605) and is as fresh today as when it was written.
Lorenzo calls Quixote a madman, but a “glorious madman”.
Go ahead, read the book, bring along a pencil and mark every passage that
strikes your fancy throughout. I think I’ll remember both Quixote and his pal Sancho for a long while and I’ll especially remember the bond of friendship they carried through thick and thin.
In the final chapters, the two do return to their own village and are welcomed by the niece and housekeeper, the curate and the barber. Quixote is sad and melancholy having lost his final duel, but stays fast to his promise of returning home for a year before ever setting out again on new adventures. The photo below shows the deathbed scene with Quixote writing out his will and his friends around him. He dies a sane man and content that at least he followed his dream.
I do recommend this book to anyone who has a chunk of time to devote to it and who wants some worthwhile reading. (To review other parts of Don Quixote, select recent posts listed at upper right.) Oh, well, I don’t see any posts listed up there. If you ever come across the “search box” when you open up my blog, type Quizote in there and you’ll see old posts. thank you!
Think you’ll read it? Think you won’t?!