on November 2, 2003
I have read this book both in English and Spanish, and I can honestly say that it loses very little of its power, wit or message in translation. For all those who have considered reading this book, here are a few good reasons: this book is a very nuanced look at escapism and identity, a wonderful parody of knight stories, along with being a rousing (and very funny) adventure centering around the titular hero, a man who reads one too many books about knighthood and chivalry and decides to become a knight-errant himself. After recruiting a sidekick and choosing a lady to woo per narrative convention, he sets out to conquer the forces of evil, which include, among other things, giant windmills and rogue "knights". Cervantes' insight and ability to parody were both ahead of his time, and in a time where escapism and voyeurism are well and thriving, it is not difficult to imagine someone watching too many TV shows and believing they're a wild west outlaw or what-have-you. A very fascinating experience, and it works well in any language. Highly recommended.
on June 15, 2004
First of all, I absolutely love this book. It was about a year between the time I bought it and actually got around to reading it, as it's near-1,000 pages of 400 year old writing can seem daunting at first. But, as has been said before, this book is as 'timeless' as they come. It seems alot of the reviewers are missing a major point, however, which I would like to delve into. Perhaps (them missing this point) comes from them reading it as a 'comedy' or reading merely sections of it for a class. But taking this book in as a whole, one cannot help but be moved pretty profoundly.
I mean, yeah, this book is funny as hell!!! I laughed SO hard when Don Quixote and Sancho are at the Inn for the first time, and Don Quixote makes his elixer. And it didn't set so well with either him or Sancho, and almost killed poor Sancho. If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about:)
But the beauty of this book lies in the fact that Don Quixote is living a complete lie. And he seems to know that at times... most of the time, no, but every once in a while it seems like he kind of knows. But it isn't important. What's important is that he KNOWS that he MUST be a knight, that it is the only way for him to live. Screw the world. He'll save damsels in distress (or not) and damn the torpedoes. And believing with all your soul in something that no one else thinks exists, thats something I think one can relate to alot. And another beautiful touch: alot of the people he meets along the way at first are all like 'Your CRAZY man' but they ALL get swept up in it eventually. It's almost like secretly everyone wants to believe.
Truely an amazing book, and one that will find you at page 100, looking ahead to the next 900 pages and instead of thinking 'Bummer! Lots to go' you'll just grin a hungry grin.
on November 14, 2003
This is a wonderful translation. I first read Quixote seriously in the Putnam, and was completely swept away by it - the prose was just as readable as it is here, and Putnam communicated a love for the text in his notes (as well as a hatred for the translators that had butchered it before) that was a nice accompaniment to the actual story.
Grossman's language is smoother, and I suppose Putnam's prose does have the dust of fifty odd years on it - but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't mind if an old book reads a bit like an old book: slightly dated English gives a book a certain flavor. I like Putnam for the same reason I enjoy Maude's translations of Tolstoy. Grossman does write a better sentence, I think, and she certainly doesn't make the book any more colloquial than Cervantes did - although I was annoyed at her constantly having Sancho say Wassup.
Putnam's Quixote, incidentally, is filled with notes: more notes than most people who aren't scholars will want. Every one of Sancho's proverbs is explained (and those aren't exactly the comic high point of the book, either) and he constantly takes potshots at Motteux and other translations, a la Nabokov when he translated A Hero of Our Time. They're sort of funny, but eventually you want him to get out of the way of Quixote, which is what one actually wants to read - not the translator's thoughts.
But then again: a note can easily be skipped, and it's nice to have the extensive information that Putnam packs in, about the historical situation in Spain, potential variant readings of a passage, all the brouhaha about the fake second half of Don Quixote that actually ends up having a part in the book - and lots of other stuff.
Still, a good translation of a book that can be read a hundred times in a hundred different ways is always worthwhile. Don Quixote truly never stops being funny or sad (especially when you know which parts can be skipped the second and third time around) - people who expect a dreary classic will be surprised to find an author that is as relevant today as he ever was.
(Kidding about the Wassup.)
on June 12, 2004
I'm sure many of you have already read this great piece of literature. Edith Grossman has a new translation which transcends all other translations. The book was written in 1605. It is the story of Don Quixote who after reading tales about Knights-in-shining-armor decides to become a Knight Errant, and sets out to rescue damsels in distress. His peasant neighbor becomes his squire and records all that happens. Most of his adventures are so hilarious that I found myself bursting out laughing quite often. There was a poll taken once that questioned literary authorities as to what was the best book (secular) they thought ever written and this book came out on top. You can't stop laughing at Don Quixote's mishaps as he goes about rescuing maidens that he presumes to be in distress.
It's great fiction as well as great reading. Was the fore-runner of the modern novel.
on February 13, 2004
Edith Grossman's newest translation of Miguel de Cervantes's "Don Quixote" is fabulous. As someone who grew up watching various incarnations of "The Man of La Mancha", I felt it was time to read the source material. But I was always afraid that the language (old timey as well as Spanish) would be a major hinderance to my enjoyment of the text. Grossman presents the adventures of Knight-Errant Don Quixote and his able (if slightly dimwitted) squire, Sancho Panza, with a fresh, contemporary voice. As I read the novel, I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible the language was. I got the feeling I was reading and enjoying the novel the same way one of Cervante's contemporaries would have.
The novel is funny, sad and violent, sometimes all three at the same time. I highly recommend this latest translation.
on June 8, 2004
The audio book of Edith Grossman's new translation of Don Quixote was a perfect driving companion for my trip across the country. At a whopping 40.5 hours, I listened to the 35 CDs almost nonstop but didn't even finish it in the car (though only about 20 minutes were left when I arrived).
As I suppose I could have guessed, the text of Don Quixote is particularly well suited to the audio book format. Among other things, it's largely a book about storytelling, and many long sections of the book felt very much in the spirit of The Canterbury Tales. Characters enter, tell their stories to the main characters (and to us readers in the process), and then go their merry way. It strikes me as the perfect book to read to a child a chapter a night, as each chapter stands on its own as an isolated adventure or even a story within a story. Like A Thousand and One Nights, it begs to be read aloud in installments.
Of course, the success of a good oral story depends on the reader, who needs the right voice, interpretation, interest, and believability to tell the tale in a gripping, convincing manner. George Guidall is the perfect narrator for this story. From the first pages of the Preface, I could already tell that his voice was the one I'd imagine for Don Quixote (and, by extension in my mind, Cervantes himself). His narration always captures the humor of the book without turning it into slapstick comedy and he effectively reads all characters, both male and female, as rich, distinct voices without resorting to caricature. For example, he characterizes his female voices by using a softer tone, not a higher pitch. He doesn't try to sound like a woman; rather, he simply conveys the fact that a female is speaking. I often find this is a challenge for readers of audio books. There's nothing worse than hearing a male reader go falsetto when reading a female character's lines.
Also, though I've never read or heard any other translation and so have nothing to compare it to, I found Edith Grossman's new version remarkably crisp, current without being anachronistic, and generally easy on the ears, which, since I imagine that's how the Spanish would have sounded to Cervantes' original readership, strikes me as a success.
In short, if you're planning your own cross-country drive, or if you have some other long-term commitment to solitude that you need to fill with a good yarn, I highly recommend picking up this audio version of Don Quixote. If you're just looking for something to occupy your daily commute, this might not be the book for you, simply because you'll be listening to nothing else for quite some time.
on February 6, 2004
DON QUIXOTE is my all time favorite book, but, as much as I love it, I really didn't like reading those huge, pages-long paragraphs. In a book more than 1000 pages in length, those paragraphs eventually got to be quite unwieldy. Edith Grossman has, in my opinion, given us a wonderful translation of DON QUIXOTE and she has broken up the long paragraphs into more manageable chunks. And, like Pevear and Volokhonsky do for the Russian classics, Edith Grossman has made DON QUIXOTE sound even more Spanish, even more seventeenth century, than older, more awkward translations. Anyone who thinks they are going to find a "modern" Don Quixote in the pages of this translation couldn't be more wrong. Don Quixote, The Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, is still very seventeenth century, but there is also a timeless quality to this book, much like ANNA KARENINA, that I think should appeal to almost everyone.
Don Quixote was, I think, the very first "Everyman." He's charming and chivalric; he's sorrowful and melancholy; he's romantic and good; he's comic and long-suffering. He's a man who only wants to see a better world and a better self...and love his Dulcinea, of course. I think every character Shakespeare (who, coincidentally, died on the same day in 1616 as did Cervantes) or Dickens (and many other authors) ever created has a little of Don Quixote in him and I think this is a huge part of the book's timeless quality.
Although it's the extraordinarily rich characterizations that make this book the classic it is, I also love the sense of place and the stylistic devices employed. Could DON QUIXOTE take place anywhere but in Spain? I don't think so. This book is so "Spanish" that even if one were to read it and not be told the exact locale, seventeenth century Spain would simply leap from the pages. At least it did for me. I felt transported back to a very different time. A time that, in some ways, was gentler and more charming, and a time that in many other ways, was exceedingly cruel.
Many people, when referring to DON QUIXOTE, only talk about its comic and picaresque qualities. I have to wonder if those people have read the entire book if they were "victims" of teachers who simply assigned "portions" of the book to be read. This book has it all. Yes, it is comic and picaresque. But it is also profoundly sad and tragic, bittersweet and poignant, sentimental and realistic. It is a strange mix of reality and fantasy, of the real and the imagined.
Structurally, DON QUIXOTE is a very sophisticated book and there are novellas and plays and even poetry wrapped in this huge, wondrous novel. For me, at least, they make the book all the more fascinating, though I do know readers who found DON QUIXOTE structurally frustrating or annoying. Much of that annoyance, I think, has been stripped away in Grossman's lovely translation. There is also a wonderful blend of fantasy and reality in DON QUIXOTE. As I've already said, the "Spanishness" of this novel cannot be understated. And Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Dulcinea and yes, even Rosinante are real, fully-fleshed out characters. But there are so many other characters in this book who make only brief appearances and are the product of Quixote's (and Cervantes's) imagination...just as are the famous windmills and Quixote's quest for a better, more perfect world.
The book ends on a pitch perfect note, one that combines the tragic and comic, the real and the fantastic. Most people, I think, are familiar with the ending of DON QUIXOTE, but just in case you aren't, I don't want to ruin it here, because, if you're a first time reader of this wonderful book you certainly in for a real, and rare, treat.
DON QUIXOTE has been called the "first modern novel." It really doesn't matter if it is or it isn't. What does matter is that it is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind reading experience that shouldn't be overlooked by anyone.
Potential readers should not be discouraged by the considerable length of the work. It turns out to be far more exciting that one could expect. The key is that the novel should not be considered at face value but as a parody of chivalric romances that apparently abounded in Cervantes' days. Thus, the reader discovers that a major theme of the work is the contrast, or rather the unfathomable gap, between literature and reality.
The work actually includes two separate books. The second written some time after the first was published includes many ironic comments on the latter. There are many funny moments throughout, as when Don Quixote meets for the first time another character claiming to be a knight errant ... who has defeated the famous Don Quixote. The description of the actual Dulcinea Del Toboso is also memorable.
It must be underscored that the excellent translation is very lively and includes a variety of styles and forms, apparently as in the original.
This work is consequently very highly recommended.
on September 20, 2005
1575 Cervantes embarked for the umpteenth time (the Spanish king fought with his ships against Arabian kings) in the Mediterranean area, but this time he was captured by a Turkish ship and was brought as a prisoner of war to Algiers, where Cervantes spent five years in dungeon custody. In his novel we can find a fragment, where the hero Don Quijote frees a procession of galley prisoners. This chapter for example had been written with the author's knowledge of his own real time of captivity. For five months Spain's enemies put Cervantes in iron chains to break his will. But Cervantes managed a strike of twenty-five thousand prisoners of war. So Spain's enemies felt glad, when the king of Spain paid a large sum of gold, to set him free. Back in Spain Cervantes wrote his story about Don Quijote and his servant Sancho Panza, the master of doubts. And mainly this is a book about the importance of DOUBT. Cervantes knew: it could be dangerous, to fight as a hero without any doubts - that is his everlasting message. He was the forerunner of all people, who are warning, that individuals, communities or systems sometimes live a complete lie - and therefore will meet their catastrophe in their very end. But Cervantes is giving this message with humor - compare, on the other hand, the serious atmosphere of the elder parts of the bible! The ironic Odyssey of Miguel de Cervantes therefore belongs in the row of the most important cultural products in the story of Old Europe...
on March 5, 2005
Don Quixote is a somewhat autobiographical account from Miguel Cervantes about a middle class man in Spain, who decides to take on the name "Don Quixote of La Mancha" and with that to take on the noble profession of knight errant. One who upholds chivalry and goes around the country righting wrongs, rescuing maidens, and stopping evil. This is somewhat autobiographical because many of the events and places are directly inspired from Cervantes' life, but he never became an actual knight errant, though he was a soldier.
Don Quixote recruits a local peasant to act as his squire (Sancho Panza) and they go off on a series of adventures. In one of these very first and most famous adventures Don Quixote charges a series of windmills believing them to be giants, and most of the rest of the series of adventures is similar to this. After awhile other people find out about Don Quixote's efforts and the interactions with them are quite funny at times.
In fact one of the other aspects of this novel that I absolutely love is the humor with which it is told. The stories are absolutely hysterical at times, all with that kind of tongue in cheek humor. As you read them you will think that many of them are cliche but it was in fact Cervantes who is at the root of many of these cliches, in other words Don Quixote is the inspiration of the very cliches.
I wholeheartedly recommend this novel to everyone. It is quite long and will take you awhile to read, but I recommend breaking it up into a couple of chapters and reading them every few nights. This will of course take even longer but I really feel that's the best way to read it. In fact if it weren't for some of the more ribald situations, Don Quixote would make a great novel to read to kids, reading a chapter or two every night, maybe a parent with creative editing capabilities could pull off such an effect. Overall, you should read this book, it brings a whole new perspective to modern novels. But try it for yourself! Another book I need to recommend -- completely unrelated to Cervantes, but very much on my mind since I purchased a "used" copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, an exceptional, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.