I bought Don Quixote by Cervantes two summers ago. I heard vague rumors that the book was the basis of the modern novel, so I begged M to read it with me for our book club. When it arrived I almost crapped my pants.
Me: A thousand pages? Is that, like, as long as the bible? What font is this, 8? I can’t read this.
M felt the same way, so instead of opening it up, it just sat on the shelf next to my coke machine bank and a copy of C++ For Dummies. Every once and a while I’d walk past it and think, that book is probably filled with old timey language. We all know how much I hate ‘old timey’ language*.
I had a good reason for thinking this, as Don Q was written over four hundred years ago.
I had never given thought to the fact that this copy was a translation, and therefore would be updated, and well, easier for someone like me to read. The art form of translating was basically lost on me until the last volume of McSweeney’s arrived in the mail**. After reading that, I decided that I should give Don Q a solid try. For the record, I am reading the John Rutherford translation.
I planned to read five hundred pages for this week, but due to the miniscule font, I only made it to two hundred and fifty pages, or the end of chapter XXVII—whatever number that would be in real numbers.
Here are my initial impressions of the book:
1.) Cervantes was funny. Funnier than I thought. Some of that has to do with the translation, as I’m sure things like cardboard weren’t yet invented in DQ’s time, but dang, I had no idea this guy was basically Post Modern. It has bodily function (think poop and vomit) humor alongside of sheer wit. Why haven’t I read this before?
2.) If Don Quixote were alive today, he’d be hospitalized, given a heavy dose of anti-psychotics, and tried for violent behavior.
3.) I’m glad DQ isn’t alive today.
4.) The windmills don’t really have that big a part in the book as I thought….
5.) Sancho steals the show, as every good sidekick should.
6.) This book ought to be made into a major motion picture, one where they invest millions of dollars and have multiple sequels.
DQ is the type of character a reader pulls for, so I’m hoping Cervantes doesn’t pull a Hemingway and kill the guy. I no longer care about the size of the font or the number of pages—
I just got to get to the end of this book.
*I went to a theater production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Guthrie this past weekend, and it nearly killed me. I was totally fine with the gramophones and costumes that were from every time period except Shakesphere’s, but it all fell apart when the people with the animal heads came on stage and started singing. That’s when I started to panic…
**It’s easier for me just to tell you to look it up then try to explain it here.