Inspired by Roberto Bolaño, who called it his favorite book, sections of Adam Thirlwell’s The Delighted States, Time’s Flow Stemmed’s recent review, and my own sense of literary duty, I picked up Edith Grossman’s translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ epic Don Quixote last week.
I’ve read chunks of the book over the years, but I’ve probably read more about it than I have the thing itself–never a good thing for a reader who aspires to literary criticism, I suppose. Anyway. I’m surprised at a few things so far. First–and I don’t know if it’s an effect of Grossman’s translation–but the book is very easy to read–breezy, almost. Not what I was expecting for a 400 year old tome famous for dismantling high/low distinctions. I’m also surprised at how terribly sad the book is. Most critics cite the book’s humor, its farcical depiction of Don Quixote as a satire on romanticism and erudition. But it’s also about a guy who’s batshit insane, who repeatedly attacks those he comes into contact with, and who also catches a beating himself now and then.
My goal is to finish it this summer–or at least the first book, anyway. The restaurant I ate lunch in today flaunted statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which I would take to be an auspicious sign if I believed in such things (I don’t). I couldn’t really get a good picture of both with my phone’s camera so I did my best for a headshot of Quixote. The sun’s light seems to obscure him but perhaps that’s appropriate.