My Perspective on “Don Quixote”

As of this morning (December 28, 2023, ~0715, I finished reading the epic novel “Don Quixote.” I told myself I’d write out my thoughts immediately upon finishing it. 

Foreword: First of all, once a year, in The Arena Disciplina, we intentionally give ourselves a 10-week timetable to accomplish a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, or BHAG, for short. 

I began my BHAG on October 24, 2023.

My Audacious Goal this year was to read “Don Quixote.” I have had this epic novel forever and have been especially eyeballing it to read for the last several months, but still could not muster the drive to do it. Until now, or rather, up until ~10 weeks ago.

Don Quixote is the longest book I’ve ever read. By a long-shot.

My edition is 942 pages, which is daunting in its own right. It’s also written in classical English literature (translated from 16th century classical Spanish literature), another reason not to read it. 

Well, turns out, those two reasons were the exact reasons why I chose to read it, simply because they were daunting enough not to.

So, that’s that. 

Review: This book took a lot of concentration and discipline to read through. The math worked out to be about 13.5 pages a day for 10 weeks. 

This book is about a wide-eyed, “quixotic,” self-coined (that’s the only spoiler alert I’ll give you), adventure-seeker named Don Quixote. He’s outfitted with his trusty steed, Rozinante; his faithful sidekick Sancho Panza who was always accompanied with his trusty ass, Dapple. 

The book jumps from one adventure and escapade to the next in exquisite detail, including all of the happenings of the time and the thoughts of everyone involved. Sancho speaks and responds a lot with proverbs and apothegms in both Latin and Spanish (translated to English), which comedically draws the ire of Don Quixote. 

For the first 190 pages, my mind wandered a lot. However, in Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 11, page 192 (of my respective edition), I had a moment. 

On this page, Don Quixote admonishes his (incredibly) loyal sidekick Sancho Panza saying that “thou art an everlasting babbler…and thou shalt give ear to a short story which I will relate.”

First, I caught myself wanting to defend Sancho, because if ANYONE were an “everlasting babbler,” it would be Don Quixote. And, secondly, there was no “short” story that Don Quixote told. My goodness, that man could talk! 

So, from that page on, I was engaged more in the characters and their idiosyncrasies. 

I loved getting to know some of the characters in the book especially Don Diego de Miranda (Volume 2, Book 1, Chapter 16, page 552, of my edition). He was of sound mind (you could just tell) and a charming, agreeable gentleman to boot in every stereotypical way.

The Official Approbation foreword leading into Volume 2 (page 453 of my edition) is worth a read in its own right. It articulates the overseeing & overarching methods as part of the approval process it was at the time to embark on such a tedious and very difficult translation from old Spanish literature to English literature without losing any of the essence or theme. A lot of people signed off on the endeavor and gave their account and opinions of the translations throughout the process.

I finish this book in awe of the gift that the translator had (Tobias Smollett 1721-1771) to embark on such a monolithic task.

Worth noting, I thought Chapters 10 and 11 of Volume 2, book 3 (pages 724-734 of my edition), were a particular delightful and funny read as Don Quixote gives his unsolicited advice for Sancho Panza, which he often did. Some of the advice was very sound and measured, frankly, even indicated by the omniscient narrator, and some of it was off the wall, again, affirmed by the narrator.

If you’re familiar with Don Quixote, the character, the knight-errant, as it were, he has a relentless and insatiable desire to be a man of little folly and robust in character, a man reliant on his own production and industry, a man who will put his own well-being at risk for the chance to save the damsel or weaker man, and the man called upon when honor or chivalry were ever at stake. 

Notwithstanding all of that, some called him a madman. Some called him passionate. Some called him aloof. Some called him a chivalrous knight. To others he was a man filled of “impertinent curiosities” worth entertaining and worth the entertainment. (This reference comes from a random “book” within the book. Most editions delete this part of the novel to shorten the overall read). 

Without saying too much, the last chapter was very good and brought a lot of clarity to the character that was Don Quixote. 

You’ll have to muscle through the book to form your own opinion and perspective. I would love to read your thoughts afterwards.

No matter your opinion of Don Quixote the man, he inspires those around him, including the reader, to interpone tuis interdum gaudia curis.*

Additionally, as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza would daily subscribe: “Delay breeds Danger.” 

Enjoy the epic adventure.

*Now and then, insert some pleasures in the midst of your worries.

BHAG link

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