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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Don Quixote de la Mancha

   
Author Topic: Don Quixote de la Mancha
Bob_Scopatz
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I finally finished this book. It took a very long time. Months. I kept falling asleep.

The funny thing is, I know I'm not alone. Every episode that has entered the cultural literacy requirement regarding Don Quixote can be found in the first 100 pages of the first volume of the book. Since it is two books long totaling over 900 pages, that leaves the average well-educated person 8/9ths of material in which to make a fresh discovery.

Also, I didn't know that Cervantes was a contemporary of Shakespeare.

This is a book, also, for which a good translation into modern idiom is essential. Sancho Pança is a man addicted to aphorisms. He can't speak without spewing some trite saying or six or seven. The second volume uses this device much more effectively than the first volume. So we don't really see it. Sancho becomes less of a sidekick and more of a character in his own right in the 2nd volume.

Sadly, the 2nd volume is also flawed deeply by Cervantes' anger over someone basically stealing his characters and making their own Don Quixote book. He published the 2nd volume, in part, to answer the other guy's challenge. Today, however, it just seems like wasted breath. The other book has obviously faded into obscurity, along with its author. And yet the guy achieved a piece of immortality by being named several times in Cervantes' masterpiece. It's pathetic really.

And sort of sad.

I personally would've ended the book differently, but I get Cervantes' moral to the story. It just would've made a better story if he'd chosen a different way to end it, IMHO.

All in all, I'm glad I read it, but I won't be revisiting it in its entirety again any time soon. I might use it as a reference in something I write in the future. Heck, I might even just write my own Don Quixote stories just to tick old Miguel off and disturb his eternal rest. Ha!

And there you have it. My content-free review of a classic that I enjoyed but wish it wasn't so darn rambling.

[Big Grin]
[Hat]

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Javert
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And if you want to know the story without going through all that reading nonsense, you can always watch this Don. [Big Grin]
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Tiger Eye
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i saw the play, Man of La Mancha. it was awsome.

ok, done.

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blacwolve
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That's one of the best musicals ever!
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Paul Goldner
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As a side note to weighty tomes of literature that most of our knowledge of comes from a small portion...

The Count of Monte Cristo. My brother and I read that this winter. Unlike bob's attempt at a classic, we really enjoyed the book. The unabridged version is a relatively new translation into english, about 1100 REALLY LARGE pages with really tiny print. But Dumas really knows how to write em, baby.

I'd recommend to anyone looking for a good novel, and who isn't afraid to spend 6-12 weeks on it.

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Kwea
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I read it in 4-5 days......and I really enjoyed it too. I saw the remake of the movie last year with my wife, and she went on and on about the book. It annoyed me so much ( [Big Grin] ) that I went and bought the new translation and read it in secret. Then, a few days later, after reading it all while she wasn't around, I casually mentioned the movie to her.

She started talking about the things the movie left out again....and I POUNCED!

She never knew what hit her.... [Big Grin] [Big Grin] [Evil]
[ROFL]

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Bob_Scopatz
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Dumas is great.

I'm wondering if maybe Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wasn't just a mediocre writer afterall.

I have to say, though, that Victor Hugo is still my personal favorite among the extinct authors of yore. Maybe that's not a fair comparison because he's so much more contemporary than, say, Cervantes. But man that guy could write!!!

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Eryn
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We had to read that for school. It got a bit boring after a bit because the plot was quite repetitive. However, we only had to read the first part- is the second part any better? The ending of the first part was quite haphazardous and wasn't such a great conclusion.
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Eduardo_Sauron
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Sheesh...please, people...Miguel de Cervantes, Like Luís de Camões and Sheakespeare (yes, those three are in the same league) is a master of his craft, and one of the most celebrated and respected writers in History.
I don't know...maybe his prose cannot be well translated to non-latin languages, since his lyrical verve is so pronounced. It is not the first time I heard english-speaking people "not getting" Cervantes, but lets respect the masters, ok?
Stating that Cervantes "is not a very good writer after all" shows a bit of naiveté, IMHO. Anyway, I guess people are entitled to have different opinions.

But see...if you liked Da Vinci over Michellangelo or Raphael, would you say that M. or R. may not be such good artists?

[ March 31, 2004, 07:19 AM: Message edited by: Eduardo_Sauron ]

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Chris Bridges
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Try Graham Greeen's "Monsignor Quixote." Shorter, more modern, pretty compelling.
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Bob_Scopatz
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Eduardo,

Do I detect a bit of nationalistic pride here?

I think the book probably suffered greatly in translation, but there are structural problems as well:

1) The plot is repetitive.
2) The first book ends with a whimper. The second book has a definitive ending, but not a particularly compelling one. It's a pious one, to be sure, but that often results in things being sort of lame, doesn't it?
3) The idiom doesn't translate well.
4) Cervantes clearly became obsessed, in book 2, with his rival who had stolen his characters, much to the detriment of the narrative. He contrives to place Don Quixote in situations just so he can rail against the injustice of someone writing about him.

I'll grant a lot, but this book is a masterpiece of a genre that Cervantes set out to kill. And he was effective. So effective that, in fact, a modern reader can't possibly get most of the jokes because all the referents are gone into oblivion. That's not Cervantes' fault, of course, but it makes for a tedious read. Perhaps back in the day, it was important to have all of these "adventures" detailed even though they were pretty much the same.

To me, the absolute best part of the book was Sancho's governance style. Here Cervantes was witty and engaging and it was a great break from the pattern of "who is going to yank Don Quixote's chain next?"

Of course, not having read it in the original, I can't begin to judge what a great turn of phrase Cervantes might be capable of. I could just have a bad translation. I know that Victor Hugo's prose comes through the translation process just fine, though, so maybe it's that Cervantes was writing for a different time and a different audience.

It's okay.

But I don't feel like I have to "respect the masters" just because other people think he's great. If I had to judge based on this, I'd say he's not even close to Shakespeare's abilities. Not by a very wide margin. Again, maybe it's just a bad translation.

But it's okay. I could give him another try someday.

The idea behind Don Quixote is truly brilliant. It just didn't work out all that well overall.

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TomDavidson
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I've never been a huge fan of Cervantes, which kind of bothers me; I strongly, strongly suspect that I'm losing something in the translation, given the passion with which Spanish-speakers defend him. When examined purely on plot, many of the great Elizabethan authors -- including Shakespeare -- aren't all that great, either; we remember them because of their brilliant turns of phrase.

Would we remember Romeo and Juliet as fondly if it got translated as "Hush! Her window lights up!" or "Mean druggist, your poison kills me fast!" I suspect not.

And so, when I cringe at the thought of Cervantes, I can't help thinking that it's my own failure for not being fluent in Elizabethan-era Spanish.

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Jacare Sorridente
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I have read maybe a hundred pages of Don Quixote in Portuguese. It is one of those books I plan to get back to...sometime. The translation I have uses very archaic expressions and reads more like Spanish than Portuguese.

At any rate, what I have read so far has been very witty. Cervantes has a very deft hand at clever turns of phrase. I think that maybe the problem in appreciating his craft is the same as, say, appreciating the poetry of Isaiah in an English translation. When I was in Mexico a couple of months ago I watched an episode of the Simpsons in Spanish. The translators obviously tried very hard, but most of the jokes fell very flat. I think that maybe this is the same sort of thing.

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Eduardo_Sauron
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When I come back from work I will try a longer post.
Now, just a tidbit about nacionalistic pride:

Cervantes is spanish - I am brazilian
Cervantes' language is spanish - my language is portuguese (Brazil was colonized by Portugal, not Spain. Many people make mistakes about this).

Ergo, no nationalistic pride here: I'm just a south-american guy who studied a little about and likes a lot this particular european writer.

I agree that some languages translate easier into some than others: it's easier to translate spanish into portuguese than into english.

I agree people may or may not like Cervantes.

I just don't agree that it is fair to call Cervantes a "mediocre writer". As I said before, if you didn't like Picasso, you probably wouldn't call him a mediocre painter. So, why disparge an aknowledge master of writing. It's ok not understanding some of his references: it's very old stuff. Only specialists would know most of them. Its even ok not liking his style.

I'm only saying this: we all agree Don Quixote (as we write here in Brazil) is one of those rare artistic masterpieces that transcended its time and, even today, survives and is known and apreciated everywhere. Even if it was the only thing Cervantes ever wrote (it wasn't) it would grant him the "master" status.

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Dan_raven
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Try "The Death and Life of Miguell Cervante's" by Stephen Marlowe--one of the weirdest books ever written, about the truly adventerous life of Cervante's.

Face it, Dumas might be a more exciting writer, but did he have a more exciting life? Cervante's was known to have been a soldier at the Battle of Lepanto, captured by Pirates, almost executed, captured by the Spanish Inquisition (whom he was, actually, expecting), and much more.

Of course, this book adds espionage and sisterly lust to his history, plus delves into the "real" Arab scholar from whom Cervante's claims he translated Don Quixote.

Bob--I agree about Don Quixote II. Its basically the Anti-Napster argument, a few hundred years early.

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Bob_Scopatz
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Eduardo...I guess my nationalistic pride detector is faulty. Better have it checked.

Okay, I will make it a personal point to try a different translation of Don Quixote, or, better yet, read something else by him (if I can find a translation).

I have to say that the turns of phrase didn't really come through in this translation. And all the idiomatic phrases were changed from then-current Spanish idiom to semi-modern-day Britishisms. The translator was pretty good about giving the reader the original wording in a footnote, but while I think the Spanish idiomatic phrases would've been lost on me, the British aphorisms were sort of bland feeling in their triteness. I'm speaking mostly of the stuff by Sancho Panca in this instance. But it's perhaps indicative of the whole.

Anyway, I might actually call some artist "mediocre" even though he or she had won great acclaim in the art world. I know it makes me sound like even more of a cultural Philistine, but there are just some artists whose work seems inferior and their acclaim based more on intangibles and personality than skill.

I wouldn't say that about Picasso, however.

But Jackson Pollack...perhaps. I mean, once you have the original idea of spewing paint around, what is there? Sure, he did it first. Maybe he did it best, but how could anyone tell? Originality is worth a lot, but it can't be the only thing that makes a great artist great, can it?

Surely technical skill should count too...

Oh well, thankfully I'm not an art critic or a literary critic. I wouldn't even try to talk someone out of reading Don Quixote. I might suggest that they use it as a way to pass the time while marooned on a desert island, but I wouldn't tell them don't read it.

[Big Grin]

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Jacare Sorridente
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Bob- to me it sounds like the main problem is with the translation as you said. I have a piecemeal set of The Lord of the Rings in Portuguese in which I have various parts of the trilogy from different publishers and translators. There is a huge difference in the feel of the books from one to the other. Even just the translation of names makes a huge difference. For example, "Strider" is translated variously as:
Passolargo (wide step)
Passo de Gigante (giant step)
Caminheiro (wanderer/pathfinder)

Everytime I read "Passo de Gigante" I just winced inside.

Anyway, I think that it might be worthwhile to find a better translation and have a go.

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Eduardo_Sauron
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Jacare, I always hated "Passo de Gigante" and "Caminheiro". In the end, "Passolargo" was a better choice (it is in the newer edition), although I always asked myself why the translators never gave a shot to "andarilho" ("walker", or "the one who travels by foot"). Well...that was their choice, not mine.

Have to go, now. Late for work. Gaaaaaa!

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Bob_Scopatz
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Passo de Gigante!

[ROFL]

That's just wrong.

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Jacare Sorridente
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Eduardo- I was alright with caminheiro, but I like Passolargo best.

As Bob said, Passo de gigante is just wrong.

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