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August 6-17, 2005
He received a hearty welcome
from the goatherds.
"Don Quixote" (1605-1615) All page numbers,
Part 1, Chapter XI, p. 83 Penguin Classics edition
Trans: John Rutherford.
(ISBN 0 14 24.3723 9)
Nice to read some high brow
literature for once about
people vomiting on each other.
We all have some familiarity with the
Don Quixote story in outline -- a
madman thinks he's a Knight, and goes Everything you've
off on deluded "Adventures", such as heard about in this
the infamous tilting at windmills. book occurs in it's
first 100 pages.
And this is of course the
source for the strangely This may say something
pronounced adjective about the remaining
"quixotic". 900 or so.
In essence, Don
"Don Quixote" is one Quixote is just
of the candidates you Trying to another overblown
sometimes hear read this serial --
proposed for Greatest book straight
Novel Ever Written, through is The modern era did
and one of my own neither not invent milking
quixotic endeavors is necessary nor a popular property.
to try to read all desireable...
of them and decide And indeed,
for myself. It's much like Cervantes has
renting the included some
If you're interested entire run of amusing rants
in the score "War "Star Trek" and about the
and Peace" is still trying to watch terrible state
winning. it all in one of the theater
sitting. in his
Tolstoy is handily era... one could
beating out Twain, fill in the word
Melville, Hugo Hollywood
and now Cervantes. WAR_AND_PEACE instead, and no
one would guess
Swift still to go. it was written
500 years ago.
I had a particular reason for
investigating how Cervantes
presents Quixote's madness.
I had this Great Insight
about "Chivalry" as an ethical I'd been reading works
system focused on means rather like Walter Scott's
than ends: "Ivanhoe", and (much
better) Conan Doyle's
In a world sufficiently bleak "The White Company"...
that positive outcomes always
seem to recede, upholding a LIGHT_EXPECTATIONS
"code of honor" would at least
be an achievable goal.
But that seemed What was I doing
very close to philosophizing
the notion of about Chivalry
Quixote as a man without having
afflicted with a read Cervantes?
For all I knew,
"Don Quixote" was the
original source of
Doyle's depiction of
A Quixote-figure could be
presented as someone with
the courage to engage in
an existential act of I'm pretty
self-creation, to attempt sure that I've
to re-define himself in heard this At the very
spite of his apparent line argued, least I've
unsuitability for the role but I don't seen it
he wants to play, and in remember where suggested
spite of the dissonance at this point. that Don
between the role and the Quixote
mundane world. allows for
The willingness to be interpretations.
absurd would then be the
true heroic act.
"'But uncle, why do you have 'I know who I am,' retorted
to go and get involved in Don Quixote, 'and I know
these arguments? Wouldn't that I can be not only all
it be better to stay quietly those whom I have mentioned,
at home instead of looking but every one of the Twelve
for better bread than what's Peers of France, and every
made from wheat, and one of the Nine Worthies as
forgetting that many a man's well, because all the deeds
gone out shearing and come performed by them both
back shorn?' singly and together will be
exceeded by mine.'
part 1, Chapter VII, p. 61 part 1 chapter V, p. 50
But there are very few
touches like this of
what might be taken as
reverse english. And I sincerely hope
that no one holds it
And they come very up as a grand example
early in the story. of the unreliable
Then it settles down
into what seems like That "translated from the
an interminable Hope arabic" is a pretty silly,
& Crosby routine. meaningless piece of schtick
on Cervantes part... the
There's precious little voice of the story remains
to indicate that resoundingly, monotonously
Cervantes had any consistent throughout.
sympathy for Quixote's
There is something
Perhaps: appealing about the
'That is the whole generations of
point,' replied Don obsessed academics
Quixote, 'and therein grouping through the
lies the beauty of my entrails of this low
enterprise. A knight brow slapstick,
errant going mad for a desperately
good reason --- there searching for some
is neither pleasure nor complex meaning.
merit in that. The
thing is to become "Don
insane without a cause How many dissertations Quixote"
and have my lady think: have there been on the itself
if I do all this when meaning of the tale of a focus
dry, what would I not 300 sheep? for a
do when wet? ...' kind of
(I hope I have the madness.
Part 1, Chapter XXV, p. 209
Inspired to imitate Cardenio,
"the Ragged Knight"
'The devil take you peasant!'
said Don Quixote. 'What good
sense you sometimes speak!
Anyone would think you'd been
Part 1, Chapter XXXI, p. 285
Quixote to Sancho
I went looking for a
work about chivalric
ideals, but instead "Don A satire of some extremely
Quixote" just appears to safe targets: the tale of
be a very broad piece of chivalry and it's censors,
comedy. long after both were dead
issues. (Though I gather
Don Quixote isn't the source. disrespectful
It's just more commentary. swipes at the
I'm always reaching for regarded as a
"High Noon" and ending up bit more edgey.)
with "Blazing Saddles".
If anything, Cervantes is taking
a position diametrically opposed
to my notion...
He repeatedly makes fun of the
way that Quixote's actions
achieve nothing worthwhile, no
matter how proud he is of them:
" 'It is not the
responsibility of knights
errant to discover whether the
afflicted, the enchained and
the oppressed whom they '... And you're to blame
encounter on the road are for it all, because if
reduced to these circumstances you'd gone on your way
and suffer this distress for and hadn't come poking
their vices, or for their your nose into other
virtues; the knight's sole people's business, my
responsibility is to succour master would have been
them as people in need, having content to hit me a dozen
eyes only for their or a couple of dozen
sufferings, not for their times, and then he'd have
misdeeds. I came across a untied me and paid me
rosary of angry, wretched men, what he owed me.'
I did with them what my
religion requires of me, and Part 1, Chapter XXXI, p. 287
nothing else is any concern of Andrés to Quixote
mine; ... " and company
p. Part I, Chapter XXX, p.271
Quioxte excuses releasing
criminals from a chain gang.
A book about the way
people relate to fiction...
This story about a delusional fan who
takes the fiction too seriously has
been done again many times since And Sancho Panza's
Quixote -- I think of it as a "Walter creative mangling of
Mitty" story (without much respect language will forever
for priority or accuracy). seem to me like Leo
Gorcey schtick, from
the Bowery Boys.
Most recently, I
saw a film named
(2003) a satire Certainly watchable, with
about a man lost in some funny satire of Indian
the world of music video, but the man's
Indian television. obvious insanity makes the
story hard to get into.
There are innumerable things (I've never understood the
like the Bob Hope movie, "My appeal of fiction where
Favorite Brunette" where the you're supposed to laugh
main character really wants at the main characters.
to be a hardboiled private Give me the Marx Brothers,
eye... every time.)
A personal favorite of
that sub-genre is the
British film "Gumshoe" "Gumshoe" is a movie that
(1971). works well as a satire of
story and also a good
(written by example of the genre.
directed by The reason it works: at
Stephen Frears) any moment you can't tell
whether the main character
is really being crazy, or
might have something going on.
There's a level of suspense
to that that's missing from
the usual fantasy of the
And, in comparison, Don
Quixote is universally
a fuck-up throughout.
How common is the
I would say that if anything we
suffer from the opposite disease.
Far from being surrounded by
people who are trying to be like
the heroes of adventure stories,
our real trouble is that if you
get near any kind of idealism or And there are a lot of
grand ambition you'll get shot people out there who
down with an "Oh, grow up. Can't seem to have said
you be *realistic* for once?" "Heroism? Uh... I'll
take the Likeable Rogue
A book about unreliability of human reason...
The canon was gazing at Don Quixote and wondering at this
strange great madness of his, and at how he showed a fine
understanding in all his remarks and replies, only taking
leave of his senses, as has already been pointed out, when
chivalry was the subject under discussion.
Part 1, Chapter XLIX, p. 451
Sancho said all this with
such calm assurance, every
so often wiping his nose
with the back of his hand, SHANDY_TOWN_MIND
and it was all so absurd,
that both men were again
struck with amazement as
they considered how
powerful Don Quixote's ' ... what must have happened is that
madness was, carrying this those who have enchanted me have
poor man's wits along with assumed their likenesses; because it
it. is easy for enchanters to take on
whatever appearance they please, and
Part 1, Chapter XXVI, p. 226 they must have taken on the appearance
of our friends to make you think what
you are thinking, and lead you into a
maze of conjectures from which you
would not be able to extricate
yourself even if provided with the
thread of Theseus. ... '
Don Quixote to Sancho.
Part I, Chapter XLVIII, p. 447
A collection of fragments....
When Cervantes drops the Two Stooges
routine and goes off on a tangent,
the book gets much more readable. "I've never seen a book
of chivalry that could be
The stories within a story all work regarded as a whole body
pretty well as stories, even though complete with all its
they're extremely simple tales members, and in which the
of romantic romance. middle corresponds with
the beginning and the end
"The Tale of Inappropriate with the beginning and
Curiosity" is probably the the middle; on the
best... contrary, their authors
give them so many members
The Captive escaping from the that their intention
Moors is okay too -- the detail seems more to produce a
there makes it look like chimera or a monster than
Cervantes was doing historical a well-proportioned figure."
fiction, or possibly travelog.
Part 1, Chapter XLVII, p.440
Even the stuff about the Ragged The canon, to the priest
Knight (Cardenio) works okay,
despite being resolved by A fine example of the old
multiple forced coincidences. self-deprecating hypocrisy
joke (one of the seven
deadly types of humor).
So: what is Cervantes saying about
our relationship to fiction, by
interjecting these simple stories
into the satiric narrative without
any noticiable irony?
Showing by example how
a Quixote can be seduced?
Or is he apologizing for
coming down so hard on
tales of romance?
"Don Quixote" is a
tribute to the engaging
power of fiction of
which the novel itself
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