Friday, October 20, 2017

'Don Quixote,' ripped from the headlines

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, by Honore Damier

     "Self-praise is self-debasement."
     "Craziness has more companions than wisdom."
     "If a man cannot govern himself how can he govern others?"

     Now seemed a perfect time to flee into "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes, to get lost in the vast 400-year-old Spanish novel of a deranged knight and his trusty mule-borne sidekick, Sancho Panza.
     You can run but, alas, you cannot hide, and a vexing present will sneak up where least expected. I don't want to suggest that "Don Quixote" is suddenly a political novel, ripped from the headlines of 2017.
     Let's just say the tale of a delusional old man who blunders about, claiming to help people while actually attacking innocent passersby and then interpreting the resulting fiascoes as embellishing his legend of unmatched glory, well, there was a certain unexpected relevance.
     Or as the Knight of the Sorrowful Face says: "The woman they call Fortune is fickle, and blind and drunken and doesn't know who she raises up or sets down."
     Tell it, brother.
     I do have to give technology a nod. Our brave new digital world gets a bad rap for mooting books, and rightly so. But the sword cuts both ways, to offer a proverb in the spirit of Sancho Panza, that endless font of aphorisms. Technology can also be literature's friend.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. I myself have become, of late, an unapologetic Kindler. I love books and always will, but the ease, convenience & savings of Kindle editions are hard to beat. Recently got a jones for Fitzgerald's "The Beautiful and the Damned," and there it was, from my couch, for $2.99. Boom! I could probably pull out as many quotes from it relevant to today's malaise (which I'm also seeing everywhere now in the great books), but I'll spare us all this morning.

    1. Likely you can also borrow Kindle books free through your local library.

  2. Well, Neil, you've once again whetted my appetite. Now I want to read Don Quixote. 940 pages of 400 year old translated text is more than a bit formidable. I don't know yet whether to thank you or curse you. I'll have to get back to you.

    1. Listening to it is quite painless.

    2. There is also a good message for ... how shall I say it? ... we aging gentlemen, who tend to vanish into our own elevated self-assessments.

  3. My auditory processing attention span is relatively short. I'm easily distracted by visual stimuli. Close your eyes, you say? That would mean doing nothing but listening. A lot of people listen to books while driving. Not a good time to close your eyes.

    Our "elevated self-assessments" are an important defence mechanism when railing against change. What else do you have when the kids are snickering at your inability use the new remote?

  4. "You, who in my opinion are undoubtedly a dolt..."

    Ah, that resonates for me, as, out of the many, many colorful and cutting nicknames for the Tangerine Terror, "Dolt 45" is my go-to.

    Perhaps "dotard" was not in the translator's wheelhouse, but that's a keeper, too, of course.

    "Idle reader, you can believe without any oath of mine that I would wish this book, as the child of my brain, to be the most beautiful, the liveliest, and the cleverest imaginable…" I suppose the old Don thought he used all the best words and hired all the best people, too! ; )

    I don't relish the thought of embarking on 940-page excursions, either, but did read and enjoy it, way back in the day. Alas, long before 2003, and I settled for the J. M. Cohen translation, which is not even listed among the top 4 on a website I just looked at. Anyway, it's always enjoyable the way you find relevance even for today's bizarro world in the old classics, N.S.

  5. Have to see if Amazon is "surge pricing" Don Quixote.


  6. I'm tempted, but will have to think about adding it to may too long list of works to revisit. Must do War and Peace, among others.


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