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Don Quixote

A book by Martin Jenkins

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A difficult but extremely worthwhile read

  • Jul 20, 2010

Don Quijote de la Mancha--originally published in two parts (1605 and 1610)--tells the story of Alonso Quijano, an elderly country gentleman whose "brain dries up" after reading too many "romances de caballería", or chivalric romance novels, a common popular genre in 16th- and 17th-century Spain.  The protagonist of these stories, always a gallant knight-errant, engages in mortal combat, stoically suffers inhuman privations, and defends the honor and safety of the helpless, all in the name of his lady love.  Miguel de Cervantes's parodic version of these stories is a comical look at how these stories were seen in the Spain of his day, as well as an insightful and sometimes quite acerbic look at 17th-century Spanish society and culture.

After his brain dries out, Quijano, donning his "finest" knightly apparel and adopting a portly peasant, Sancho Panzo, as his squire, dubs himself Don Quijote de la Mancha and embarks on a series of misadventures that still entertain readers today.  As Don Quijote, Quijano's mission is to right wrongs and help the helpless, although it seems that the person who is in most need of help is Quijote himself, who is constantly getting himself into situations that usually end badly.  The most famous episode is, of course, the joust with the windmills, whom Don Quijote perceives to be giants and which he attacks, only to be knocked to the ground.  However, if you only reach this first of his adventures as a knight errant, you are missing out on an untold number of literary gems.  Take, for example, the extremely comical "blanketing", a moment of soft abuse where Sancho is repeatedly tossed up and down on a blanket by ruffians; or the poignant and powerful scene where Don Quijote acquires the name "El Caballero de la Triste Figura": The Knight of the Sad Countenance.  Your best effort is worth the time you spend as you attempt to understand this classic novel in all its depth and breadth.

A word to those who are embarking on the first venture into 17th century Spanish prose: digression, digression, digression.  As the novel was a relatively new genre when Cervantes first wrote Don Quijote, many of the stylistic preferences of today's fiction--clarity and a streamlined plot, for example--were not in vogue in 1605.  In the novel, we find copious digressions that appear in the form of literary and philosophical dialogue, interwoven mini-novels, or stories related orally by the different characters Don Quijote encounters in his quest, perhaps at a meal or on the roadside.  Be prepared for said digressions and enjoy them as they were meant to be enjoyed: for both entertainment and instruction.  This last word is key to understanding the the Quijote as the novel was written, as a rule, to both entertain and enlighten the reader through exemplary conduct or sermons on proper behavior.  While some might find this didactic presence a turn-off, if you try to read it from the perspective of a 17th-century Spaniard, you can appreciate what the author was trying to do, even though you may not agree with his conclusions.

As Miguel de Cervantes's novel celebrates its 405th year of worldwide success, I would encourage all serious readers to consider giving this novel a try.  Even after 400 years, the humor is fresh and the insight into the human experience is still compelling, time after time.

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July 20, 2010
I really enjoyed this book when I read it as a high school student. I remember that it was a difficult read, but there was so much about it that really touched on topics I could relate to. Don Quixote is a masterpiece everyone should read. Thanks for the review!
More Don Quixote reviews
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
Make sure to get a good translation (if you need a translation) with footnotes.
review by . June 30, 2010
I admit it is a difficult book for the advanced reader but it is still such an avid story that I think everyone should have to be read by everyone! I couldn't help but get sucked into the story, feeling for this old man who was really a romantic at heart, eager for adventure and lost in his world of fantasy. Who hasn't wanted to get lost in their own world and to create their own adventure? Maybe it is because I really was a solitary kid and had to amuse myself however I could, but I really …
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
A great tale of a man taking control of his life and going after what is really important to him
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
review by . March 30, 2009
DON QUIXOTE, Cervantes classic novel of a world-weary dreamer who imagines himself to be a knight in the modern world has been retold countless times since it was first written. It has been the basis for books, movies, songs, musicals, comics, etc. The story is a wonderful yarn filled with wit and humor, vivid images, and just the right amount of inspiring messages. Candlewick Press has recently released this latest retelling of the novel by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell. DON QUIXOTE …
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Matthew Hill ()
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About this book


This imposing volume presents the first part of the quest by the beloved Don, whose name stands for chivalry and courage--"The Impossible Dream." The book's heavy stock, binding and design all impart an air of style and prestige, reinforced by Bogin's suave translation, which makes good use of abundant dialogue. (The phraseology and vocabulary, however--"erstwhile," "apothecary," "coherence"--will be beyond younger readers.) Though the paintings by Spanish artist Boix are masterfully executed, some lack the sweep expected from this panoramic work; much of the imagery is somewhat pallid, both in tone and emotional impact. And, though the architectural details, period apparel and scenery are all richly evocative, the characters themselves are often small in scale and dwarfed by their stunning surroundings. Nevertheless, the presence of an elegantly produced, picture book version of this classic merits attention and applause. All ages.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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ISBN-10: 1844287475
ISBN-13: 978-1844287475
Author: Martin Jenkins
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd

Polls with this book
1984 (British first edition)

Collection of Classics


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