- Title: Don Quixote
- Author: Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman
- Publisher: Harper Collins, 2005 (orginally written 1605-1615)
- Pages: 940 (right now, read up to page 226)
- ISBN: 9780060934347
Good morning people! So, about 18 days ago I decided to start reading Don Quixote, and I’m happy to tell you that I am now halfway through the first half of the book. Sure, 940 total pages doesn’t seem like much considering the giant Outlander novels I read, but it’s a BIG BOOK, and you know, a translated work. And a classic. Anyhoo, I’ve decided that it might be a good idea to break reviewing this sucker into quarters, so here we are – the first quarter.
*There will be some spoilers, if you aren’t familiar with the story. Sorry, but it’s such a giant book and I don’t know how to review it without sharing what’s going down!*
So, the book starts off with some 50-year old guy living pretty much by himself. He’s kind of broke, and he spends all day and all night reading books of chivalry – tales of knights and adventures and such.
“In short, our gentleman became so caught up in reading that he spent his nights reading from dusk till dawn and his days reading from sunrise to sunset, and so with too little sleep and too much reading his brains dried up, causing him to lose his mind.” (from chapter 1)
So this guy decides that you know what? HE is going to be a knight too! He’s going to travel the world on his horse, looking for adventures, righting wrongs, saving damsels, and all the knightly things that knights do. His name will be Don Quixote of La Mancha! So he suits up in an old armor suit, makes himself a helmet with visor to wear, and gets on his scrawny horse to go off and be a knight. He even decides that since all the knights he’s read about had big epic lady loves, he is now in love with a peasant girl from a nearby village, and he decides to call her Princess Dulcinea of Toboso.
So, off DQ goes and he comes to an inn, which he thinks is a castle. Everyone can tell he’s kind of insane, and he asks the innkeeper to knight him the next day. He ends up beating the crap out of people who come anywhere near his armor, so the innkeeper “knights” him to get him the hell out of there. Back on the road, DQ promptly gets beat up and a local helps him back home. He escapes again to continue on his journey of knighthood, but this time with the help of a fellow farmer who agrees to be his squire, Sancho Panza. They set off together in search of knightly deeds and adventure, which results in them constantly getting their asses kicked.
That’s the first quarter of the book in a nutshell. So, what do I think so far?
Poor DQ, man. He has lost his damn MIND! He’s already shown that he’s getting progressively worse too – whenever confronted with some information that contradicts the reality he has in his head that he’s a knight, he says that some evil enchanter is just playing tricks on people’s minds. When Sancho tries to tell DQ that this “famous gold helmet” he’s wearing is actually a basin, DQ says that a good enchanter must have put a spell on it to keep it safe, so that everyone else thinks it’s a basin, but he knows it’s really the famous helmet. He is 100% in his own crazy little world. I like him though, cause you know… poor guy. You got to sympathize with a guy who goes mad from reading too much.
Sancho sucks. Worse sidekick ever, seriously. He knows damn well that DQ is nuts, but sticks to him in the hopes that he’ll profit from it. He seems to completely buy into DQ’s insane ramblings that once he is granted a kingdom, he’ll give Sancho his own little island to rule. Sancho is the fat and lazy type that complains during most of their travels, and while he occassionally tries to talk DQ out of whatever crazy notion he has, it rarely does any good and like I said – they get their asses beat a lot.
Overall, I’m enjoying the story. Especially in the beginning, there were some hysterical moments. There’s of course, the famous windmill scene. Seriously, go to Google Images and just type in “Don Quixote” and 90% of what comes up are various pictures and art of the windmill scene.*
One of DQ & Sancho’s first adventures is when they come to see a bunch of windmills in the distance, and DQ swears that they are giants and it is his duty to defeat them. Sancho tries to warn his crazy ass, but DQ ignores him and charges full tilt at one of the windmills, gets his lance caught in one of the sails, and he’s thrown over and onto the ground, all sorts of injured. Definitely one of the funniest scenes in the book so far. My favorite funny scene so far? When DQ & Sancho hilariously vomit in each other’s faces. Sounds like something from a Beavis & Butthead episode, which shows that the sense of humor men have really hasn’t changed in the last 400 years.
Right now, the funnier scenes have slowed down and honestly, things are getting a little repetitive. Sancho whining a lot. DQ insisting on doing crazy things that get them all hurt – seriously, in real life they’d be dead by now. I think things are about to get more interesting – Sancho runs into two people who knew and tried to care for DQ before he ran off, and they devise a sneaky plan to trick him into heading home that involves cross-dressing. That’s bound to be funny.
So, I’m sure that there’s a bunch of people smarter than me who have analyzed this book to death, but here are some of my thoughts…
~ Cervantes was trying to both express his fondness for tales of chivalry while also mocking them.
~ He also really liked repeating things – plot devices, and just saying the same thing over and over, but in different ways.
~ There seems to be some confusion has to whether or not Sancho really gets his mule stolen, and when. Which makes me think that while this book is pretty kick-ass, Cervantes probably wasn’t the best proofreader.
~ DQ is always taking a situation the wrong way, he’s a bad judge of character. He helps a bunch of prisoners to escape and is surprised when they turn on him, but he tends to attack completely innocent people like priests or sheep. Not sure what Cervantes is trying to say with that…
~ Cervantes includes a character named Cardenio, who goes mad with grief and lives in some mountains. Apparently this may or may not have been the basis for a play that may or may not have been written by Shakespeare. I know nada about Shakespeare, so if anyone can shed some more light on this it’d be cool.
For right now, I agree that this probably is one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written. DQ’s situation is messed up – while it’s all good for laughs now, I can’t imagine it’s going to end happily for him. The man has gone batshit crazy. And there’s a lot of seriousness sprinkled in – the story of a beautiful woman blamed for some man’s death because she didn’t love him, Cardenio’s sad story, Sancho’s desire to go home to see his wife and kids, etc.
Anyways, first quarter is a success! I’m hoping it doesn’t take me quite has long to finish the second quarter, but we’ll see.
*I made that statistic up, by the way. But seriously, it’s a lot.