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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Here is a place to discuss what the critics have to say about Don Quixote.

I had planned to wait to start this thread until we were nearer the end of the book, but my library just delivered two inter-library loan books to me, Nabakov's Lectures on Don Quixote and Echevarria Cervantes' Don Quixote: A Casebook. Both are on fairly short loan periods, so I will have to dig through them well before the end of our read. I will hold back any comments that might contain spoilers until we get to those sections, but there are some points I can post sooner without any worries about spoilers.

Please post anything from criticism you find interesting (which can include footnotes, endnotes, introductions, etc.)

As always, please avoid spoilers; where criticism discusses a specific plot element we haven't gotten to yet, please hold back until we reach that point. Thanks.


message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The Casebook has an interesting comment on the title of the book.

Grossman and Raffel both title their translations just Don Quixote. Putnam's title is The History of Don Quixote de la Mancha.

But apparently the title Cervantes gave to the first part, published in 1605, was "El ingenioso hildago don Quixote de la Mancha," which the Casebook editor translates as "The Witty Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha." He goes on to say "Ingenioso meant witty in the sense of inventive to an almost pathological degree. Hildago (son of something) was a member of the low nobility. Don was a deferential form of address to which our hero really had no right because of his social station. La Mancha was a region of Spain of no particular distinction -- plain in the literal and figurative sense -- meant to contrast with the more dignified areas famous knights hailed from. Amadis was from Wales and Palmerin from England. Next to them La Mancha is supposed to look and sound ridiculous. Ironically, the success of Cervantes' book has given La Mancha a poetic aura that it did not have."

When it comes to wondering how seriously Cervantes expected his book to be taken, the term "ingenioso" he gave to it in the title may offer a clue.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Interesting thought about history vs. poetry, but we have to realize, I think, that Aristotle was writing in a time when history as we know it was still a very new genre. We don't know exactly when Herodotus wrote, but he was just a generation or two older than Aristotle.

I think the term "history" developed somewhat over the centuries, so I'm not sure it's entirely fair to compare the word the way Aristotle used it with the way Cervantes's translators use it. (Fielding, after all, called his novel "A History of Tom Jones, a Foundling." )

So I think that the term history has taken on a broader meaning than Aristotle was speaking of.

But it's still a good question about the difference between history and poetry.

But beyond that, it's still an interesting


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "I thought this one was interesting.

Knight's Gambit by James Wood

newyorker.com/archive/2003/12/22/031222 crbo_books."


That link didn't work for me, and a search for Knight's Gambit didn't show up anything. Can you find it again and check the URL?




message 5: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Everyman wrote: "Patrice wrote: "I thought this one was interesting.

Knight's Gambit by James Wood

newyorker.com/archive/2003/12/22/031222 crbo_books."

That link didn't work for me, and a search for Knight's Gam..."


Copy the entire link and then take out the space.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurele wrote: "Copy the entire link and then take out the space. "

Thanks. Worked.



thewanderingjew | 184 comments Patrice wrote: "Since reading Knight's Gambit, I do see what he means. DQ can be viewed as the ulitmate egotist."

Thanks for that link, Patrice. I really enjoyed reading it. It helped me understand some of the feelings I have had while reading the book.


message 8: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments hmm...Cervantes and Nietzsche would have some interesting discussions...maybe.?


message 9: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments Wow, that article from the New Yorker was awesome! I wish I had written it.


message 10: by Foppe (last edited Aug 20, 2009 03:19AM) (new)

Foppe (0spinboson) | 11 comments Though I wish he'd expanded a bit more on this assertion:
We are fortunate to have at present three excellent translations of “Don Quixote”: in addition to Grossman’s, there is John Rutherford’s recent version for Penguin Classics (which takes more liberties with Sancho Panza’s demotic Spanish than Grossman’s does), and Burton Raffel’s rendering for Norton. All are scholarly and elegant; in some places they are almost indistinguishable. But Grossman, who has translated García Márquez and Vargas Llosa, has produced the most distinguished, and the most literary, of them, and those qualities are amply displayed on every page.
I have both the Rutherford and the Grossman translations, and the thing that annoyed me about Grossman's was how she seemed to be rendering specifically the longer lines in a manner that to me felt much more forced/stilted than Rutherford did. But it's fairly hard to find comparisons of the two translations online (either within or outside scholarly literature), so I've little to base this on.

Still, for a comparison between two translations of a passage I found memorable, see book 1, Ch 30:
‘You blockhead!’ exploded Don Quixote. ‘It is not the responsibility of knights errant to discover whether the afflicted, the enchained and the oppressed whom they encounter on the road are reduced to these circumstances and suffer this distress for their vices, or for their virtues: the knight’s sole responsibility is to succour them as people in need, having eyes only for their sufferings, not for their misdeeds. I came across a rosary of angry, wretched men, I did with them what my religion requires of me, and nothing else is any concern of mine; and to anyone who thinks ill of it-saving, reverend sir, your holy dignity and honourable person - I say that he is no judge of matters of chivalry, and that he is lying like a bastard and a son of a whore, and I swear by my gospel-oath that I will make him acknowledge this with my sword, at length and in extenso.’ (Rutherford)

“Imbecile,” said Don Quixote, “it is not the responsibility or concern of a knight errant to determine if the afflicted, the fettered, and the oppressed whom he meets along the road are in that condition and suffering that anguish because of misdeeds or kind acts. His only obligation is to help them because they are in need, turning his eyes to their suffering and not their wickedness. And I encountered a rosary, a string of disheartened, unfortunate people, and I did for them what my religion1 asks of me; the rest does not concern me, and I say that whoever thinks this is wrong, excepting the holy dignity of the licentiate and his honored person, knows little of the matter of chivalry, and lies like a lowborn whoreson, and will be taught this by my sword at greater length.” (Grossman)

As you can see, the tone is fairly different between the two. Sadly, I cannot read Spanish, so I haven't the faintest what to make of that, but I do think the "in extenso" is more fun than "at greater length".

PS. This translation of "ingenioso" as "witty" seems odd. Why not translate it as "ingenious"? I'd say the regular meaning of "witty" does not include the definition mentioned above, so why not keep the translation (more) literal?


message 11: by thewanderingjew (new)

thewanderingjew | 184 comments Foppe wrote: "Though I wish he'd expanded a bit more on this assertion:
We are fortunate to have at present three excellent translations of “Don Quixote”: in addition to Grossman’s, there is John Rutherford’s re..."


Perhaps the translators are as confused as we are which is reflected in their choice of words. Some of the "adventures" make no sense at all, especially in Part 2. I am finding the second part a bit disjointed. The adventures, some of which are longer, seem purposeless or without a "moral" you can take away at the end. In the other book, I found that even the most foolish adventure seemed to have a moral or ethical message. Not so, for me, in Part 2. Some seem merely to shame or insult DQ and the squire, rather than to impart a philosophical message. They point out the basest instincts and seem to accept them rather than the other way around. Maybe that is the message.


message 12: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Foppe wrote: "Though I wish he'd expanded a bit more on this assertion:
We are fortunate to have at present three excellent translations of “Don Quixote”: in addition to Grossman’s, there is John Rutherford’s re..."


It's always interesting to see two translations side by side. Thanks for doing that. It does seem that Grossman's translation is more moderated -- she often indicates DQ's angry "distant form of address" with a footnote rather than taking liberties with the translation. Both translations are literally accurate, as far as I can tell, and the differences are as you say a matter of tone.

"Ingenioso" has more of a tone of cleverness, not as in witty funny, but as in witty wise. It's a fine distinction, but I think that's what the translator is reaching for. I kind of like it because it touches on both the humorous aspect of the novel as well as the wise one.


message 13: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1753 comments So what's the best English equivalent for _ingenioso_? Maybe "astute"?


message 14: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Roger wrote: "So what's the best English equivalent for _ingenioso_? Maybe "astute"?"

Ingenious is probably the best term, especially since it is meant ironically, but I can see how "witty" or "clever" might serve the purpose as well. I guess we'd need to hear from an expert in 16th cent. Spanish to know for sure. (Of course that is what I would expect an acknowledged translator to be.)


message 15: by thewanderingjew (new)

thewanderingjew | 184 comments Patrice wrote: "Bernard Lewis says that reading a translation is like looking at the back of an Oriental carpet. "

you know, both sides tell a story if the carpet is woven well.


message 16: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1753 comments "Ingenious" suggests figuring out clever solutions to complicated problems. To me, that never seemed to fit DQ.


message 17: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments No, it doesn't. In fact it seems the opposite in DQ's case: he figures out clever ways to complicate what are in reality simple things -- which is why I think "ingenioso" is meant ironically. Several of the chapter titles are ironic, so why not the title of the book as well?


message 18: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Patrice wrote: "Bernard Lewis says that reading a translation is like looking at the back of an Oriental carpet. "

Cervantes says the same thing in Ch. 62! (Though his comparison is to a Flemish tapestry rather than an Oriental carpet.)


message 19: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4617 comments Patrice wrote: "I just found a difficult but I think interesting article on the Cave episode.

It's Cervantes and Descartes on the Dream Argument by Anthony J. Cascardi
from Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes S..."


Thanks Patrice -- I will give this a gander. I find this episode fascinating.



message 20: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Patrice wrote: "You're right Thomas, I'd forgotten that statement about the tapestry. I am hugely impressed that you remembered it! So Bernard Lewis is stealing from Cervantes.
The more I read, the more I reali..."


There is nothing new under the sun, saith the Preacher.


message 21: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Yes; he called himself "the Preacher."


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