Cecily's Reviews > Don Quixote

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
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's review
May 30, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, humour, favourites

Whatever else Don Quixote may be, I never found it boring. Parts of it were very funny, others had wonderful similarities with Shakespeare, some bits were more serious: it's like a mini library in a single volume. Wonderful.

Overall, it has quite a Shakespearean feel - more in the plotting and tales within tales (eg The Man Who was Recklessly Curious, stolen by Mozart for Cosi fan Tutte) than the language. In fact, the story of Cardenio is thought to be the basis for Shakespeare's lost play of the same name.


Very funny - slapstick, toilet and more subtle humour, with lots of factual historical and chivalric detail as well, but it doesn't feel especially Spanish to me. Certainly long, but I don't understand why, supposedly, so few people manage to finish it. Some of DQ's delusions hurt only himself (tilting at windmills), but others lead to suffering for his "squire" Sancho Panza (tossed in a blanket) or reluctant beneficiaries of his salvation (the beaten servant, beaten even more once DQ departs) and bemuse people (mistaking inns for castles, sheep for enemy armies and ordinary women as princesses) and are used to justify theft (the golden "helmet"/bowl) and non-payment to inn-keepers. His resolute optimism in the face of severe pain and disaster is extraordinary. Meanwhile, Sancho wavers between credulity (wishfully thinking the promise of an island for him to rule will come true) and pragmatism.

Two Parts

Part II starts with Cervantes' response to the unknown writer of an unofficial sequel to part 1, though DQ, Sancho and others also critique it in early chapters. The following story presumes that part 1 is true, and shows how DQ's resulting fame affects his subsequent adventures. A very modern mix of "fact" and fiction. Some characters doubt his exploits, others pander to them, especially the duke and duchess who go to great lengths to treat him in knightly/chivalric manner, and provide new adventures (for their amusement, at the painful expense of DQ and Sancho). Sancho gets rather more scope for lengthy meanderings of jumbled and largely irrelevant proverbs. Less slapstick and more pontificating than part I - both DQ's advice to Sancho on how to govern his promised insula and when Sancho has intriguing disputes to resolve.

A Third, courtesy of Borges?

Borges wrote the short story "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" (published in The Garden of Forking Paths ). Menard is an imaginary writer, described as if he's real, who “did not want to compose another Quixote” but “the Quixote” by combining the don and Sancho into a single character and by, in some sense, becoming Cervantes.

What Don Q Means to Me

(This section was added after an epiphany, which prompted me to make my reviews more personal.)

I was wary of this book for many years; I feared it was too heavy in ounces and themes/plot/language, but only the former is true, and that can be obviated by a comfy chair (or an ebook).

I plucked up the courage to read it shortly after joining GR, partly through encouragement from others. It was a revelation, both in terms of the power of GR friends to enrich my life and my own confidence as a reader.

My enjoyment was heightened by reading it whilst my son and his friend who was staying (both aged ~10) repeatedly watched and quoted Monty Python's Holy Grail - very appropriate!

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Reading Progress

02/19/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-37 of 37) (37 new)

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Cecily, you make me want to read again. It's been 20 years - high time for a revisit.

Cecily Good. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, though I confess that my enjoyment was heightened by it confounding my expectations.

Travelling Sunny You know, this makes me want to read Amadis of Gaul. Just to get better acquainted with the whole knight-errantry genre. Also - I want to read The Female Quixote - a parody of a parody! LOL!

Cecily The Female Quixote? Hmm, I'm not sure (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/76...). If you do read it, I look forward to reading your review.

message 5: by Esdaile (new) - added it

Esdaile The idea that Shakespeare took anything from Cervantes is hearsay, as his supposed authorship of a play which has disappeared, assuming it did in fact exist.

Cecily Yes, hearsay, and even if true, it may have been an indirect borrowing, via a third party. Nevertheless, I saw clear similarities, even if they were there purely by chance.

Travelling Sunny A year later, but I'm finally reading The Female Quixote : or, the Adventures of Arabella. So far, if the saying about mimicry being the highest form of flattery is true, then I would imagine anyone who enjoyed Don Quixote will also love the female parody.

Cecily I await your review with interest...

message 9: by Esdaile (new) - added it

Esdaile Cecily wrote: "Yes, hearsay, and even if true, it may have been an indirect borrowing, via a third party. Nevertheless, I saw clear similarities, even if they were there purely by chance."

That is interesting. There are, I think, three kinds of similarities-plagiarism (Marston and Schiller plagiarised Shakespeare a lot), genre similarity-Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie type similarities of situation, puzzle-who committed the murder, as belonging to the whodunnit genre, and similarities because they come from the same hand, in this case Shakespeare. What are you grounds if any, for tending to believe that the similarities to which you refer belong to the third category?

Cecily I have not categorised the similarities I saw, and it's several years since I read it, so I don't remember any specifics. I remember seeing more of them in part 2, especially the play-within-another-narrative, but that's as far as I can go, really.

message 11: by Esdaile (new) - added it

Esdaile With respect: in that case, I find your expression "I saw clear similarities" misleading since it suggests that you can draw on evidence to argue that Shakespeare wrote part of this play; however, now you say you do not remember any specifics.

message 12: by Cecily (last edited Dec 06, 2013 05:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily Esdaile wrote: "With respect: in that case, I find your expression "I saw clear similarities" misleading since it suggests that you can draw on evidence to argue that Shakespeare wrote part of this play..."

With respect, no, it doesn't.

My saying that I saw similarities makes no suggestion that I have any evidence for a causal link.

Bear in mind that I wrote this review about 5 years ago (the date shown is when I last edited it), so it's only to be expected that my memory of any specific examples has faded over the years. In fact, that is the reason I write much more detailed reviews now.

I can look at a pattern in the clouds and see something that looks like a dragon, without that implying that I think it actually is a dragon. I can see a person who looks like the milkman, but that doesn't imply that I think he's the milkman's child, merely that I see a resemblance.

My reviews are my personal musings on what I have read, written mainly for my benefit, but shown in a public place. I make no claim of any academic credentials relating to literature or history, so I see no way in which I can justifiably be accused of "misleading" anyone!

Renato Magalhães Rocha Great review, Cecily! I enjoyed how you said it was like a mini library in a single volume. Well said! :-)

Cecily Thanks, Renato. Your review is excellent, too.

message 15: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Graye Cecily, what translation did you read, and did you read a treebook?

Cecily It was a real dead tree and it was a translation that was quite new at the time, which was about 10 years ago (but I can't easily check exactly which, as phone app doesn't show all details).

message 17: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Graye Sounds like the Edith Grossman pictured on your review. Thanks.

Cecily I think so. The name rings a bell and I try to have the right edition as itajrs it easier when browsing my real and virtual shelves.

message 19: by Roy (last edited Oct 11, 2014 03:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Roy Lotz Nice review, Cecily. I very much agree. It is a wonderful book--so broad, so funny, and so humane. One of the few works that are equally deep and entertaining.

Cecily Thanks, Rlotz. Now you've set a challenge to think of other books that are equally deep and entertaining...

message 21: by Roy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Roy Lotz Cecily wrote: "Thanks, Rlotz. Now you've set a challenge to think of other books that are equally deep and entertaining..."

Personally, I think that's what makes Shakespeare so inexhaustible: the perfect mixture of bawdy humor, fine poetry, dramatic plots, and philosophical speculation.

message 22: by Henry (new) - added it

Henry Avila Splendid review,Cecily, I want to read this book again, such a great journey.

Cecily Thanks, Henry. I should really reread it as well, but it's always hard to put rereads ahead of new reads.

message 24: by Henry (new) - added it

Henry Avila I know what you mean, so many good books I have never read!

Tristan I think your Shakespearean similarities come from the historical surroundings of these two writers. They were roughly contemporary, and both were pioneering new literary forms in their respective languages. (Cervantes more than Shakespeare, who did not invent the plat or the sonnet, but did a great deal for making English a literary language through them.)

Cecily I think you're right, Tristan. What I don't know (and I confess I haven't investigated) is whether either was aware of the other.

message 27: by Ryck (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryck Hi, I'm currently reading Don Quixote and just like what you've said, I haven't found it boring so far! I've had superb amusement for the first 200 pages I've read and I hope I could also make a nice review of the book once I finish it like the great ones I can read here such as yours!

Cecily Thanks for your kind words, Ryck. I hope you continue to enjoy the rest of the book just as much. It's so rich.

message 29: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue I'm glad this review popped up Cecily. It is truly excellent. This is a must read for me. I have it on my Kindle for the sake of my eyes and hands. Now to figure out when!

Cecily Hi Sue. I'm glad you're glad, and thank you for the compliment. It's a while since I read it, but I have very fond memories and will doubtless reread it.

message 31: by Ritwik (new) - added it

Ritwik I have no clue how this popped up in my feed(was it because of your addition of the Borges paragraph?) but I am glad that it did. Nicely drawn comparisons Cecily! I might start this soon committing to a quarterly read of a group on GR and I have planned to go with the Tobias Smollett translation (Salman Rushdie trusts it and needless to say I trust Salman Rushdie). I see you've read the Grossman translation which is the most acclaimed one. Hoping that I comprehend this translation without any regrets of choosing it ahead of the Grossman translation.

message 32: by Jibran (new)

Jibran What a fine review, Cecily. I have been postponing it for quite a while and I feel anything I read is incomplete unless I have the legacy of Cervantes underscoring my reading sensibilities. As soon as I can acquire Edith Grossman's translation I plan to read it. Probably later this year. Thanks for reminding :)

Cecily Hi, Ritwik. Yes, blame Borges. I keep meaning to reread this and then try The Female Quixote: or, the Adventures of Arabella... One day.

Thanks, Jibran. I've only read this Grossman one, so I can't compare it with others, but I found it very readable, without being anachronistically modern.

Silvia Cachia I am impressed by how many English reader love this classic.

Cecily Thank you, Silvia, though I expect I am like most English readers: I read it in translation.
However, we have plenty of tales of knights errant (King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table), so it has a degree of familiarity.

Poncho Hi, Cecily! It's fantastic what you wrote here and how your experience on this book gave you confidence as a reader. It's also great that you mention Borges. And finally, I love what you wrote in the first paragraph: "it's like a mini library in a single volume." Quite right!

Cecily Hi, Poncho! Thanks for your kind comment. This book was something of a watershed for me, as you infer. I'm glad you loved it too.

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