Sunday, January 16, 2005

Happy birthday, Don Quixote


William Faulkner read it every year. Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez peruses it daily. One expert recommends you read it three times before you die, while another envies those who haven't touched it - yet.

The book is interpreted as both a slapstick farce and an opus of great philosophical and aesthetic worth; it has never been clear if Cervantes was intending to do no more than provide amusement for himself and his contemporaries, or if he was aiming to craft a masterpiece. . . Cervantes' intentions were unimportant.

In praise of Sancho Panza:
One legacy of Don Quixote is that of the straight-man sidekick.

Douglas Glover's book-length essay on fiction, The Enamoured Knight, is reviewed in The Globe and Mail. Both the review and the book focus on Don Quixote.

Lionel Trilling claims "all prose fiction is a variation on the theme of Don Quixote," and Milan Kundera goes so far as to cite Cervantes and Descartes as the parents of the modern era. Yet Glover is quick to point out that Don Quixote is both the first novel — 2005 marks its 400th anniversary — and an anti-novel, a "book against books" (the old don is driven mad by reading too many books on knight errantry).

"cascading points of view"
"inset stories"
"parallel action"
"shadow books"
"character gradation"
"a set-piece version of the whole novel in a different key"
"the internal relativity machine of the nested narrators"
"novel thought"

Because of Don Quixote's fragmented structure, "flickering" narration and bookish self-consciousness, Glover sees it as not simply the first novel, but also the first successfully experimental novel, the first, for lack of a better word, postmodern novel. He finds this paradoxical parentage radically underappreciated.

Miguel de Cervantes.

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(I was awed by the sight of windmills on the road to Tarifa. I've not yet read Don Quixote, never seen a movie or musical version, but Carter USM's (that's Unstoppable Sex Machine for all you unhip people) raw rendition of The Impossible Dream served as an anthem of sorts for a couple years.)


Diana said...

You know what they say about great minds... I was perusing the same links just prior to coming here and I covet The Enamoured Knight! I looked at Amazon and Google and can't find it available to purchase. Could it be that new? :/

Keep plugging away, eh? Hope you're past page 19! ;)

Anonymous said...

I have written and deleted about 40 sentences because my brain hurts and they won't come out right. The closest I can get is, it always struck me as deeply, awe-inspiringly creepy that Cervantes and Shakespeare died the same year. Big downer year for the human race, 1616.


Mamacita (The REAL one) said...

"Facts are the enemy of truth."

One of my many mottos/credos/whatever you wish to call them, that have proven true many times over.

How cool that you love this book, too.