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Don Quixote
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Old School Classics, Pre-1900 > Don Quixote- translations

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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments In Kristi's Reading the Chunksters group, someone posted this fascinating article about translations of Dox Quixote. The subject of translations affecting readability is a fairly new concept to me (:D), having just stumbled across it for the first time, that I can recall, in January, with Doctor Zhivago. And again, most recently with our group read of War and Peace.

Excerpt of article:

One Master, Many Cervantes

By Ilan Stavans | HUMANITIES, September/October 2008 | Volume 29, Number 5

Don Quixote de la Mancha is a book for all seasons: esteemed, even venerated by millions, but, maddening in its length and contradictions, a constant target of attacks. The opinions it has generated throughout history are plentiful. Lord Byron believed Cervantes had “smiled Spain’s chivalry away,” while art critic John Ruskin perceived the novel as “a deadly work.” The Czech writer Milan Kundera maintains that “Cervantes is the founder of the Modern Era” and that “the novelist need answer to no one but Cervantes.” The German cultural critic Walter Benjamin infers that Don Quixote, “the man with a single conviction . . . , teaches us that in this, the best or worst of all conceivable worlds (except that this world is inconceivable), the conviction that stories of chivalry are true can make a whipped fool happy, if it is his only conviction.”

Likewise, Lionel Trilling convincingly asserted that “it can be said that all prose fiction is a variation on the theme of Don Quixote.” Vladimir Nabokov, with typical fastidiousness, squabbled that seldom has an author been as cruel to his character, although he also recommended that we “do our best to avoid the fatal error of looking for so-called ‘real life’ in novels.” Nabokov added: “Let us not try and reconcile the fiction of facts with the facts of fiction. Don Quixote is a fairy tale, so is Bleak House, so is Dead Souls. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenin are supreme fairy tales. But without these fairy tales the world would not be real.”

And if the story of the responses to Don Quixote isn’t sufficiently fecund, its adventure in translation is proof of its vitality, but also of the acrimony it has left in its wake. Of course, translating a classic, any classic, ends up generating enough rage for at least a fistfight, if not enough to mobilize an army. It is the equivalent of dressing up a traditional bride with a new wedding dress. Will it be appropriate? Does it make her look svelte? Is it fitting with her personality? Judging by the frequency with which translators revitalize a centuries-old narrative and publishers reintroduce it through savvy marketing strategies to contemporary readers, the endeavor is rather attractive.

(snip ... )

Not only does each translator insert another degree of subjectivity, they also improvise within the parameters of Cervantes’ prose. It pleases me to think that these renditioners, as conduits of the sensibility of their respective ages, have made Don Quixote fit their respective sensibilities. Whereas Motteux and Jervas are British Romantics, Cohen is down to earth, and Grossman makes him a deliciously postmodern American hodgepodge.

A classic, Mark Twain once argued, is “a book which people praise and don’t read.” Except for its translators, of course, who not only read but revise it imaginatively, at times dreaming of supplanting the author himself.

link -

message 2: by Kristi (last edited Apr 30, 2014 09:57AM) (new)

Kristi (kristicoleman) If anyone is interested in reading Don Quixote my group is getting started reading next Monday (5/5)! Please come on over and join the read! We're over here: Don Quixote Dashboard

message 3: by Kirsten (new) - added it

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Speaking of Don Quixote did anyone hear the news item on NPR the other night?

message 4: by MK (new) - added it

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Kristi wrote: "If anyone is interested in reading Don Quixote my group is getting started reading next Monday (5/5)! Please come on over and join the read! We're over here: Don Quixote Dashboard"

Thanks for link, Kristi! :)

Kirsten wrote: "Speaking of Don Quixote did anyone hear the news item on NPR the other night?"

Kirsten, thanks for the great article. I just never knew this:

" It's considered history's first modern novel, and its author the Shakespeare of the Spanish-speaking world."

I find it fascinating!

I'm going to *try* to read with Kristi's group. I'm not sure ... may just be the 'bite of book' that topples me :D. (Too many books!!!!!)

I already asked if I could start late. I want to get current with my War & Peace read first *grin*

message 5: by Kyle (new)

Kyle (kansaskyle) I completed Putnam's translation of Don Quixote in April, which was part of The Portable Cervantes. The translator provided numerous footnotes, which I found very helpful.

message 6: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 2 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9189 comments Mod
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