Don Quixote Mass Market Paperback – Abridged, Jun 3 2003
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“What a unique monument is this book!...How its creative genius, critical, free and human, soars above its age!”—Thomas Mann --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.
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"Some claim that his family name was Quixada, or Quexada, for there is a certain amount of disagreement among the authors who write of this matter, although reliable conjecture seems to indicate that his name was Quexana. But this does not matter very much to our story; in its telling there is absolutely no deviation from the truth."
"It's said his family name was Quijada, or maybe Quesada: there's some disagreement among the writers who've discussed the matter. But more than likely his name was really Quejana. Not that this makes much difference in our story; it's just important to tell things as faithfully as you can."
(Notice how Raffel makes immediately clear in the last sentence what Grossman so literally translates.)
"His fantasy filled with everything he had read in his books, enchantments as well as combats, battles, challenges, wounds, courtings, loves, torments, and other impossible foolishness, and he became so convinced in his imagination of the truth of all the countless grandiloquent and false inventions he read that for him no history in the world was truer. He would say that El Cid Ruy Diaz had been a very good knight but could not compare to Amadis, the Knight of the Blazing Sword, who with a single backstroke cut two ferocious and colossal giants in half."
"He filled his imagination full to bursting with everything he read in his books, from witchcraft to duels, battles, challenges, wounds, flirtations, love affairs, anguish, and impossible foolishness, packing it all so firmly into his head that these sensational schemes and dreams became the literal truth and, as far as he was concerned, there were no more certain histories anywhere on earth. He'd explain that Cid Ruy Diaz had been a very good knight, but simply couldn't be compared to the Knight of the Flaming Sword, who with one backhand stroke had cut in half two huge, fierce giants."
Notice that Grossman is rather fussy-sounding in the phrase: "countless grandiloquent and false inventions he read that for him no history in the world was truer." Compare with Raffel, who always seems to solve little problems like this with charm, precision, and even a little wry swagger that's so appropriate to Cervantes' intent. So my advice is to seek out both of these new translations and spend a little time with each before deciding. Don't take others' opinions that Grossman's has superseded Raffel's. Grossman avoids some of the more colloquial English one may find in Raffel, and this may please snobs, but the accuracy of Raffel's translation is not in question, and overall he seems to me to have done the best job.
When you approach reading (or rereading) a "classic" work you really, mostly, don't have to think about whether to read it -- that decision was either made by someone assigning it to you or, more wonderfully, by you, yourself deciding to swim contra-current against the cultural waters... following Neil Young's advice to "turn off that MTV."
So. You are going to read it. And, if you are paddling the Amazon.com, here, you are going to buy and OWN it. The question really becomes which edition you should own.
This is the one.
Its a fine translation - surprising in its avoidance of archaic language. It has a nice structure - the inevitable notes are available but not obtrusive.
This edition, the Modern Library hardback edition, translated by Putnam, is also a nice book to own. It isn't one of those pretty faux-leather "shelf-candy" copies that'll break your wallet first. This is a hardworking book - the essence of the Modern Library idea. But it is a wonderful packaging of the whole 1000+ pages that is both readable and shelvable. No thousand-page paperback will survive an actual reading as anything you would want excepting as backup next to the latrine.
Did I mention that it is a great book, great story? Well, others over the years have managed that :-). But I will loudly agree. I'm rereading it only now after a 35 year hiatus (yes, indeed, classics can be lost on the young - thats why you want books that last. In 35 more years, when you turn your lance back toward targets you thought you left behind, a copy will cost you [a lot of money]). It is just plain startling in its innovations and story. I always thought Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard were the first to break down that "third wall" and talk to the audience - yet here is Cervantes doing so five centuries back ! Wow.
Even if you've been made to buy it and to read it, buy a nice copy. Read the "Cliff notes" if you must, but someday you'll be a crazy old coot like Don Q. (or me) and want to toss something more meaningful than Palahniuk (or even Rushdie) at the cobwebs that cling.
Two modern translations of Don Quixote, those by Raffel (the newer Norton Critical Edition) and Grossman (the perennial bestseller), seem to dominate the market right now. I suspect I am not alone in being annoyed by Raffel's overzealous attempts to modernize the book and Grossman's stubborn refusal to use common words whenever possible. If you are looking for a compromise between the two, this is an excellent candidate.
This is a revision of the 1885 translation by Ormsby, who produced arguably the most accurate English translation of the book. The editors updated some of the language and added copious footnotes. The text reads very well, almost as well as Raffel's version, but also retains some of the features of the novel that have been lost in modern translations. Notably, Don Quixote takes great pleasure in using outdated language (e.g., "thou," "giveth"), even though the ordinary people he encounters don't understand his speeches. More recent translations have largely done away with this, simply conveying Don Quixote as being long-winded and overly descriptive, and always being met with dumbfounded reactions. Here you truly experience Don Quixote speaking like someone from a different generation than the rest of the characters.
Where Raffel translates Don Quixote's nickname as "the Knight of the Sad Face" and Grossman uses "the Knight of the Sorrowful Face," this edition uses the classic "Knight of the Mournful Countenance." Maybe not such a big deal, but it strikes me as disingenuous to use the emoticon-like "sad face" to describe what Sancho meant to refer to Don Quixote's worn-out, gaunt appearance.
Out of the translations I've read, this one contains none of the encumbrances I've found in Raffel (oversimplified), Grossman (pretentious), Smollett (archaic), Rutherford (reliant on British slang), Putnam (tastes like the 1950s), Montgomery (riddled with errors), Motteux (censored) or Lathrop (not as evocative). (I have yet to read Starkie's version.)
This is the edition of my favorite novel that I will always turn to, and I recommend it without hesitation. In my opinion, although Raffel has made the text more accessible, and Grossman has made it more artsy, the crown still belongs to the older Norton Edition for a wonderfully executed balancing act of accuracy and emotion.