Alonso Quixano is a nobleman who loves to read novels about chivalry and all kinds of adventures involving knights. He has read so many of them, they are starting to screw with his mind and he starts thinking of himself as a knight. Deciding that he has to go out and find adventures, maidens to rescue and villains to conquer, he leaves his niece and housekeeper behind and transforms in Don Quixote. Together with his horse Rocinante and the freshly hired squire Sancho Pansa and his donkey, they’re off to great things.
It has been many years that I read Don Quixote [Volume 1 and 2], so when it was announced that it was part of my curriculum at uni, I knew that I had to read it again. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to that, I have to admit, since I remembered that I didn’t like it a whole lot, especially not the first Volume. Re-reading it now didn’t really change that.
Don Quixote was one of the books I brought with me when I went to the DR Congo for a year, hoping on the one hand that the weight to reading time ration was low and on the other that having a very limited supply of books for that time would force me to read it and do something for my education. My plan worked. I actually read both volumes twice in that year, despite the fact that I didn’t exactly love them – although the second volume is definitey much better than the first.
On to my re-read now. I haven’t yet read the second volume again, though I figured, while I’m at it, I might as well. And the first volume pretty much hit me in the same way as the last time I read. Mostly that way is that I didn’t think most of it particularly funny (like the original intention would like it to be), quite to the contrary. I also don’t think that Quixote is much a hero (like the German romanticistic translation would like to make it out). It is, in fact, rather tedious in the way it continues to beat up Quixote and Pansa, acts of violence that seem to be most of the comedy, but that I found harsh and tiring at best.
There are parts of the novel that I liked and that I re-discovered now, especially the The Novel of Ill-Advised Curiosity that is told within Don Quixote’s story and that I found very intriguing. I think it would be interesting to adapt that into a play or a movie – I’d love to see it performed in any case.
Of course, Don Quixote is a monumental work and its importance for European literature can hardly be exaggerated it seems. But personally, I’m simply not too taken with it or its characters and their quest(s).
Summarizing: If you’re interested in the history of (European) literature, there’s probably no way around it. If you aren’t, I don’t think it’s necessary to read it.