Has anyone read Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra?
Originally titled El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha, it was published in two separate volumes in the early 1600s. It has survived into prominence because Don Quixote is considered one of the most important works in a golden period of Spanish literature. In modernity, it retains a spot on many prestigious lists of fiction and is often enough raved about in literary circles.
I hated this book.
I like to think that the tome I struggled through was a poor translation. I’ve run through that several times in my reading of Inferno by Dante Alighieri. I have this gorgeous red leather bound edition of The Divine Comedy and it is stunning to look at and simply monstrous to read. Other editions are better. I hope that my exasperation with Don Quixote was the same scenario.
Don Quixote tells the story of one Mr. Alonso Quixano, who is quite the romantic and has read many novels of knights and princesses and chivalry. He eventually loses his marbles and health alike, his books are burned by a local priest and his nurse, and decides to sally forth and be a hidalgo (knight) himself. This is a very rough summary, but you get the gist. I mean, the moment the gentleman starts attacking windmills with a rusty lance, you know you should be in the midst of a good story.
And, despite all that, I cannot stand this book. To put it bluntly, there are too many words! I am not one to shy away from a lot of reading. Gone With the Wind, which is a similar length, is one of my favorite novels of all time. But the difference between the two is that Gone With the Wind never ceases to tell Scarlet’s story and the story of the South, whereas Don Quixote spends a vexing amount of time right at the beginning of the tale discussing which books Quixano loved, and which ones were just “okay”. One of the first things you learn in college writing courses is not to waste space. However, in 15th century Spain, writing was just as much about the beauty of the language as it was about the story, and this format is common among manuscripts from that era.
Still, Don Quixote took me longer to read than any other book in my memory. The musical version, Man of La Mancha, is a delight and I enjoyed the film with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren. But the book… ugh. If you see a gorgeous green leather bound version of Don Quixote in a collection with other classics, just skip it and find a different translation. Or watch the film and enjoy Mitchell Leigh’s music.
Has anyone read this book in its original Spanish? Does it come across as a bit more swashbuckling? Has anyone had the same experience with another book, where you knew it was technically a good book, but you hated it? I’d love to hear about it.
“Name a book you started reading but never finished.” – Plinky Prompt; Sept. 1, 2014.
For what it’s worth, I did finish Don Quixote, but it was a close call. The other other books I’ve put down in memory have been self-published eBook nonsense that were poorly written and cliche. Not really much worth talking about.