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400th Anniversarry of Don Quixote


I read Don Quixote for the second time before interviewing [the latest most supreme translation by] Edith Grossman. As well, our whole family listened to the audio tape on a trip down the West coast from Vancouver to L.A., and I can tell you my teenage boys were in a trance the whole way.  If you haven't read it, now is your chance. "Falkner read it every year, former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez peruses it daily.." Read more of this excellent Guardinan article Jan 13th, 2005


January 13, 2005

Did you know the term quixotic, meaning "idealistic and impractical" derives from the protagonist? Of course this is where "tilting at windmills" the original lost cause, comes from as well.

"From the moment of its publication, Don Quixote was a bestseller; four centuries on, it is the most published and translated book in the world, after the Bible, and writers and readers the world over praise the book with astonishing unanimity. In 2002, a panel of 100 leading authors from 54 different countries - including Doris Lessing, Salman Rushdie, Nadine Gordimer, Wole Soyinka, Seamus Heaney, and Norman Mailer - named Don Quixote as the "most meaningful book of all time". It bagged 50% more votes than any other book. Asked to explain the novel's grip on its readers' imaginations, Mancing replies, "I've read thousands of novels but I've never read anything that I've wanted to come back to as I do this one."

Don Quixote, the endearing tale of an eccentric knight errant and his longsuffering sidekick, Sancho Panza - described variously as the "universal novel" or the "bible of humanity" - celebrates its 400th birthday on Sunday, triggering a party for one of the world's most acclaimed literary works that will last throughout 2005. So what lies behind the novel's tremendous - and enduring - popular appeal?

A fusion of reality and fantasy, the plot covers the journeys and adventures of Don Quixote and his mule-straddling squire, Sancho Panza. Alonso Quijano is an ordinary gentleman who, after absorbing too many stories of knights errant - all the rage in the 16th century - decides to become one himself. Taking on the name of Don Quixote de La Mancha, he mounts his nag, Rocinante, and sallies forth from a nameless village in the heart of Spain to right wrongs and protect the oppressed. But the stories have addled his wits: he mistakes inns for enchanted castles, and peasant girls for beautiful princesses; he confuses windmills with giants and dreams up a beautiful damsel - Dulcinea - to whom he has pledged love and fidelity. Despite recognising his master's derangement, Sancho nevertheless sticks by him, and both characters change and develop as they wind their way across Spain, until Quixote finally grasps the folly of his enterprise and returns home, sadly, to die." GL

Place Don Quixote on your reading list—perhaps as the "summer read" which affords two months to get through its 1,000 pages.

Interesting Links

BookBuffet's Interview with Edith Grossman: NOT Lost in Translation, the translator of Cervante's and other Spanish speaking writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Vargos Llossa—speaks about her experience translating the work (which only took her 2 years, seven days a week!) 

World Celebrates: Bogna; Dallas; Mexico City, Paris, Brussels, Oran and Saint Petersburg are all set to host plays, debates, exhibitions, concerts and films. See what is happening in a city nearest you.

Spanish Cultural Ministry website for Don Quixote: the ultimate source.



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