Friday, August 06, 2004

Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes (John Rutherford, trans.), Don Quixote

Attempting to add something new to the Quixote corpus would be like adding schmaltz to a Kincaid painting. This review, really, is just an excuse to boast that I've finished the thing, the bloated, repetitive monster, the comedy of errors, the accidental odyssey, the ultimate jesting trope. It took approximately ten hours, in 100-page chunks. It was, dare I admit it, fun.

Don Quixote is the first truly modern novel, a playfully ironic parody (and self-styled debunking) of chivalric stories, without precedent, and yet, to the modern reader, entirely familiar. (I had a similar sensation upon first seeing Citizen Kane.)

Let's get pseudo-Platonic for a moment, though, and count the steps between the reader and "reality" in just one scene.

In Part II, Chapters 23-24, Don Quixote describes his adventure in the Cave of Montesinos (hey-hey, Plato!), involving fantastical visions of crystal palaces and sumptuous maidens, a three-day trip that occurs in a bit over an hour, real time.

So we have:

1. Something happens in the cave
2. Quixote tells Sancho and Basilio about what happens in the cave (and possibly lies, or deceives himself)
3. The fictional historian Cide Hamete Benengeli recounts Quixote's words
4. The narrator translates Benejeli's history
5. Cervantes writes Don Quixote
6. Rutherford translates Don Quixote into modern-day English

Borrowing another allusion, the novel is an epistemological labyrinth, full of self-referential humor and sly irony, which make for delightful reading. I may not be so devout as William Faulkner, who "reread it once a year, 'just as some people read the Bible,'" but I'll definitely read it again.


Post a Comment

<< Home