Two big thumbs up for Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman. Literature.
I won’t lie: I probably would not have assayed a 940-page book at this point in my life had it not been a Christmas present from my boyfriend. He has excellent taste in books so my reaction was more an intrigued “hmm!” rather than a horrified “aaaagh!” – but it’s still a daunting prospect. The knowledge that there was a reason he loved it was what kept me going through the first few hundred pages, which, while quite charming, were too episodic for my taste. But at a certain point, it started to pick up steam, and by the end I was wishing it were longer. It’s funny, and kind, and clever, and modern in the best way. I particularly love the second part, in which Don Quixote and Sancho Pancho discover they are characters in a book. Who would expect laugh-out-loud-inducing self-referential humor in something written 400 years ago? Not me – but in this, I’m glad to have my expectations bilked. Yes, it took me five months to read it, but I feel that it was time well spent.
” ‘Well, Sancho, by the same oath you swore before, I swear to you,’ said Don Quixote, ‘that you have the dimmest wits that any squire in the world has or ever had. Is it possible that in all the time you have traveled with me you have not yet noticed that all things having to do with knights errant appear to be chimerical, foolish, senseless, and turned inside out? And not because they really are, but because hordes of enchanters always walk among us and alter and change everything and turn things into whatever they please, according to whether they wish to favor us or destroy us; and so, what seems to you a barber’s basin seems to me the helmet of Mambrino, and will seem another thing to someone else. It was rare foresight on the part of the wise man who favors me to make what is really and truly the helmet of Mambrino seem a basin to everyone else, because it is held in such high esteem that everyone would pursue me in order to take it from me; but since they see it as only a barber’s basin, they do not attempt to obtain it, as was evident when that man tried to shatter it, then left it on the ground, not taking it away with him; by my faith, if he had recognized it for what it was he never would have left it behind. Keep it, my friend, since l have no need of it for the moment; rather, I must remove all this armor and be as naked as the day I was born, if I wish in my penance to follow Roland more than Amadis.’ “
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