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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Don Quixote by Cervantes

Title: Don Quixote 
(Originally written in Early Modern Spanish)
Author: Miguel de Cervantes (Spanish, 1547-1616)
Originally published: 1615
Page count: 972 (Av. of several versions: 790)
Dates read:
Part I - 1/4/19-2/8/19; Part II - 2/25/19-3/16/19
2019 book goal progress:  8 out of 41
Back to the Classics category: 
Very Long Classic (500+ pages)
Read my other book reviews from the challenge HERE.

Description on back of book:
Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote's fancy often leads him astray - he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants - Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together. With its experimental form and literary playfulness, Don Quixote has been generally recognized as the first modern novel.

First sentence:
Part I: "In a village in La Mancha, the name of which I cannot quite recall, there lived not long ago one of those country gentlemen or hidalgos who keep a lance in a rack, an ancient leather shield, a scrawny hack and a greyhound for coursing."

Part II: "Cide Hamete Benengeli in the second part of this history, which concerns Don Quixote's third sally, that the priest and the barber went almost a month without seeing him, so as not to revive past events and bring them back into his memory."

Favorite quotes:
"Having then, cleaned his armor, turned his steel cap into a visored helmet (with cardboard), baptized his nag and confirmed himself (by giving them new names), he realized that the only remaining task was to find a lady of whom he could be enamored; for a knight errant without a lady-love is a tree without leaves or fruit, a body without a soul." -Part I (The lady he decides to love is someone he's never actually met and never meets in the entire book.)

After Don Quixote is told that a man died due to fever: "That means that our Lord has relieved me of the task I would have had of avenging his death, if anybody else had killed him; but seeing who it was that killed him, all one can do is shrug one's shoulders and be silent, for that is what I should do if he had killed me." -Part I

"In the play of this life, in which some act as emperors, others as popes and, in short, all characters that there can be in a play; when it is over, in other words when life ends, death strips them all of the costumes that had distinguished between them, and they are all equals in the grave." -Part II

"When a prudent man sets out on a long journey, he first looks for someone trustworthy and agreeable to keep him company. Well, should not someone setting out on the journey of life, with death as his final destination, do the same, particularly since the person he chooses will keep him company in bed, at the table and everywhere else, as a wife does her husband? The companionship of one's wife is not some article of merchandise that can be returned or bartered or exchanged after it has been purchased; it is an inseparable appendage that lasts as long as life itself." -Part II

This is a hilarious book though extremely (and unnecessarily) long. Don Quixote is about 50 years old and has read a lot of books about chivalry, so he decides to become a knight. There's a part of me that sympathizes with him since there have been books that I've longed to become a part of too. Almost all his adventures, unfortunately, turn out to be flops - or worse and he gets injured. His squire even complained, "I'm not a knight adventurer, yet I get more than my fair share of all the misadventures." -Part I

He fights windmills thinking they're giants, he attacks a herd of sheep thinking they're an army, and he destroys a puppet show thinking the story real. Anything that goes wrong, he believes it due to enchantment by an evil wizard. In Part I, he is bestowed the title of 'Knight of the Sorry Face,' and in part II, his title is changed to 'Knight of the Lions.'

Just as all the misadventures were beginning to become redundant, I realized there are an abundance of mini-stories within the main story that are very enjoyable. The characters in Part II know that Part I has been published and it's complained that the author goes off on stories not related to Don Quixote. Part II does stick more with Don Quixote's adventures and has fewer side stories in it. Personally, I tended to like the mini-stories more than the main story with Don Quixote.

I liken the book to that of Monty Python and the Holy Grail - it's not only about knights, but it's hilarious. Only in small doses, though; If I watched the movie over and over, I would quickly become annoyed with the style of humor. That's exactly what happened to Don Quixote for me - by the end, it no longer was funny, but tediously insipid. The book is way too long for its own good. The novel should've been broken into smaller books and written as a series instead of it becoming one single volume.

Overall, though, it really is a good read (albeit tremendously long). Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Miguel de Cervantes have the last words:

"It is not the responsibility of knights-errant to discover whether the afflicted, the enchained and oppressed whom they encounter on the road are reduced to these circumstances and suffer this distress for their vices, or for their virtues: the knight's sole responsibility is to succor them as people in need, having eyes only for their sufferings, not for their misdeeds." -Part I


  1. This is a classic that's been on my To Read list forever. If only it weren't quite so long. ;D

    1. The 2 parts can be read as separate books - that helps with the length. I read 2 books between the first and second parts because I needed a break.