Emily May's Reviews > Don Quixote

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
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really liked it
bookshelves: classics, clothbound-own, 2019

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”

Why did no one tell me this book is hilarious? I can't believe it took me so long to finally pick it up.

Don Quixote is densest in the early chapters, which are packed full of footnotes that should be read for full context. I highly recommend using two bookmarks-- one for your place in the story and one for in the notes. If this seems too much like hard work, I want to reassure you that the notes become less frequent as you progress through the book, but they add some very helpful background information in the beginning.

If you don't know what it's about, Don Quixote follows the titular character and his lovable squire, Sancho Panza, as the former declares himself a knight-errant and goes looking for noble adventures. The context is important here because, at the time of the novel, chivalry romances like Amadis De Gaula had become so popular in Spain that monarchs of the time feared the influence of them on the impressionable minds of young people.

Cervantes responded by writing a parody of these knightly adventures. Don Quixote has read so many of these books that they have had a profound effect on his mental state. He gets caught up in a fictional world created by his imagination and truly believes that not only is he a knight, but the inns he encounters are castles, the prostitutes are princesses, and the windmills are... giants. This latter is, apparently, an iconic moment in the novel and I can definitely see why-- it is so funny. I read it through about five times and laughed each time. I think it's the way I hear Sancho saying "What giants?" in my mind that cracks me up.

The adventures do feel repetitive at times, and I don't feel like either Part 1 or Part 2 needed to be as long as it was. The buffoonish squabbles get old after a while. However, I really enjoyed the switch to a more meta style in the second part, which the notes will tell you was published some ten years after the first. In this, Cervantes explores the idea of characters knowing they were being written about, and the book takes a more philosophical - and arguably darker - turn.

I read some critical interpretations alongside the book, and I found Edith Grossman's especially interesting. She says she saw Don Quixote as a terribly depressing book. Nabokov, too, called it "cruel and crude" (that's the guy who wrote about the stalking and raping of a child). And though there are many moments of humour, I don't disagree with them. There is something undeniably sad about this book, too.

Maybe it is sad because this man is so deluded, so wrapped up in fictions. Maybe it is the way he allows himself to be deceived, and the ways others take advantage of this chance at deception. But I think, personally, that it is sad because none of it is real. Don Quixote wants something admirable, to do good, defend the weak and defeat the bad guys, but it is all in his naive imagination.

I don't know what was truly intended by the ending but, unlike some, I don't see it as a final victory. Instead I see it as a sad loss of something important. Either way, I am glad to have finally read this book. We can argue about interpretations, but Don Quixote's impact on western literature cannot be overstated.

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Reading Progress

August 15, 2012 – Shelved
March 5, 2019 – Started Reading
March 14, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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joaquín It's really good! After reading a few of your reviews, I'm sure you'll love it


Emily May Thanks! I'll have to bump it up my list :)


message 3: by Laura (new)

Laura I loved this when I read it in High School. Hope you enjoy it.


Emily May Laura wrote: "I loved this when I read it in High School. Hope you enjoy it."

I am really enjoying it! No one told me how funny it is :)


message 5: by Laura (new)

Laura Emily May wrote: "Laura wrote: "I loved this when I read it in High School. Hope you enjoy it."

I am really enjoying it! No one told me how funny it is :)"


I think most people read the expurgated version, and miss out on that.


Michael Perkins He had tremendous influence on authors that followed his time. I recently learned about his influence on George Eliot, who quoted from Don Q in Middlemarch.


message 7: by Scarlett (new)

Scarlett I think this is my favorite review of yours :)


Emily May Scarlett wrote: "I think this is my favorite review of yours :)"

Thank you, Scarlett! :)


message 9: by The Captain (new)

The Captain I haven't read this one but did work on the musical back in the day. Excellent review matey!


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Excellent review, Emily!


Emily May The Captain wrote: "I haven't read this one but did work on the musical back in the day. Excellent review matey!"

Thank you, Captain! I didn't even realize it was a musical O.O


Emily May Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ wrote: "Excellent review, Emily!"

Thank you! :)


message 13: by The Captain (new)

The Captain Emily May wrote: "The Captain wrote: "I haven't read this one but did work on the musical back in the day. Excellent review matey!"

Thank you, Captain! I didn't even realize it was a musical O.O"


I am not a massive fan of musicals in general but that one was rather fun. It's called Man a la Mancha.


Marquise So glad you read this! It's one of my all-time favourites, I've read it several times, and always laugh out loud each time. :)


Rebecca Which translation did you use? That makes all the difference in capturing the humor and cultural nuances, or even the footnotes!


Emily May Rebecca wrote: "Which translation did you use? That makes all the difference in capturing the humor and cultural nuances, or even the footnotes!"

Indeed it does. I read John Rutherford's translation because I saw many critics praising it. I understand from my research that he focuses on bringing out the comedy in the translation, which is probably why I found it so entertaining.


message 17: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen To dream the impossible dream... you must be younger than me. Man a la Manche was big for HS musicals in the 70s. Robert Goblet was in the Broadway musical.


Emily May Karen wrote: "To dream the impossible dream... you must be younger than me. Man a la Manche was big for HS musicals in the 70s. Robert Goblet was in the Broadway musical."

Maybe so :) But I also think it might be in part because it's an American play and I am British. I looked it up and saw it had a short run in the West End, but it seems it had 10x as many shows on Broadway.


Michael Perkins I'm an American and I know many Americans would rather go to a broadway production or a movie, rather than read the book.


message 20: by Karen (last edited Mar 15, 2019 08:41PM) (new) - added it

Karen Emily May wrote: "Karen wrote: "To dream the impossible dream... you must be younger than me. Man a la Manche was big for HS musicals in the 70s. Robert Goblet was in the Broadway musical."

Maybe so :) But I also t..."


Ah, yes, that would make the differnce.


message 21: by Stefan-Iulian (new)

Stefan-Iulian Tesoi I've recently read it as well. Could have been a great book if it weren't for all the story-in-story plots, the sonnets and all the fluff. Reminds me of the Decameron. Cervantes wrote at the book as if he had all the time in the world to do it...as a matter of fact he didn't lived long after he finished writing it. He is like that character from Louis Borges's Labyrinth who dies immediately after writing his masterpiece.


message 22: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah A classic that I have heard about but never read. Adding it to my to read list after reading your review! I'm interested!


Cassandra Ramos Ummm yeah Don Quixote was a dillusional character!! It was definitely a fun book to read !


Christina What an amazing review! I also read this recently and had a lot of the same feelings you did about the book.


message 25: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura I read this in HS Spanish class and then read the English translation. There were many nuances that were lost in the translation. I found the Spanish to be spectacular.


message 26: by E (new)

E m 😯 this book has 1000 pages and you finished it in 9 days? Props to you!


Emily May E wrote: "😯 this book has 1000 pages and you finished it in 9 days? Props to you!"

Ah, I can't take that compliment, unfortunately. I added it 9 days ago, but I've been working through it for more like 3 weeks :)


message 28: by Bhawna (new)

Bhawna Widhani And read other books along with this? Like Parallel reading?


message 29: by Christina (new)

Christina I have always wanted to finish reading this, but after watching an episode of the tv show "Wings" (Driving Mr. Decarlo), the character Helen runs into her English teacher from when she was in high school. The teacher has always told her "how disappointed" she was with Helen for not finishing "Don Quixote" (me lol). She spends the whole episode trying to get into the book to prove that she finished it, but is always left confused. Even after finishing it towards the end, her last words: "Not a clue". That has always put me off from finishing it :/


Scaaty A must read for anyone who enjoys literature- I made up my mind I was just going to enjoy the story and not be in a rush to finish. Yes it is repetitive- when the fight with the giants (windmills) occurred within the first 100 or so pages I wondered what could there be left to happen in the following 1000 pages!! But It is a very funny book - Sanchez is one of the most lovable characters I ever read in a book. When you think this was written In the 16th century Some topics are so relevant today (the piece about fame for fame sake? Kardashian’s all over it!!) Women are portrayed as comely maidens who must remain modest at all costs reminds one of 50 & 60s Hollywood. Ive finished after two months now there is a big don quixote shape hole in my life!!


message 31: by Andrew (last edited May 05, 2019 11:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew Nice review, Emily! I read this one,for the first time a couple of years ago. Before I started,I thought it would be boring, but reading it, I discovered a funny series of adventures, with a naive but honest hero.
I think it's impossible not to grow fond to Don Quixote even though the story become more sad going ahead.
I read it in Italian, but unfortunately my edition missing of all the notes that explain many facts and historical meaning. So I could have lost something.


message 32: by Calcot (new) - added it

Calcot Thomson Really good review. It is really good book to read


Orlando Hi Emily, great review. While reading the book in Spanish, kept remembering all these phrase and “refranes” that Mom and grandmother used to said... in many ways it was like walking back to my youth. Thank you for a great review. Un abrazó.


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