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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Trying at Least Once, 11 Mar. 2007
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Don Quixote (P.S.) (Paperback)
When a book is generally considered to be not only the first but the best novel of all time, there's not a whole lot to add to the conversation. About the only thing to comment on is whether or not the story is of interest to a modern audience. And of course, the answer is "maybe". Here are three things to think about:

It's very long. The two parts (originally published about a decade apart), are about 500 pages each. If that's daunting, the good news is that one can read just about any chapter at random and have a pretty good sense of whether or not one will like the entire work. Moreover, it's a work that lends itself to episodic reading. It's full of self-contained adventures that can be read in a weekend and then one can put the book aside, read something else, and come back to it weeks later with no ill effects.

It's very easy to read. The prose is very very accessible -- at least in this newest translation. The writing is of its era, which is to say at times its long-winded, flowery, mannered, repetitive. It's also surprisingly funny and coarse -- in a Three Stooges and fart jokes kind of way. There are plenty of other surprises, such as stories within stories, and elements of metafiction in part II.

It's enjoyable on several levels. The episodic adventures of the bumbling knight-errant wannabe and his proverb-laden sidekick can be read and enjoyed on a purely surface level. However, there are plenty of layers to be explored by those with a desire to do so. For example, Quixote's quests raise some fairly large questions of faith and idealism, not to mention questions of sanity and reality. There are plenty of social questions to, such as matter of class and religion, and whether or not Cervantes is satirizing the elite and clergy.

So, if the notion of reading a book written four-hundred years ago sounds ridiculous to you, then you probably aren't going to like it. If the idea of reading a classic piece of literature appeals to you, but seems daunting, it's worth dipping into to see if it's your cup of tea. On the whole, it's a work probably best read as part of a book group or in some other semi-formal setting, where one can discuss it, since there is quite a bit lurking beneath its picaresque depths.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ribald, humane, entertaining. Oh ... and very, very readable!, 24 May 2013
This review is from: Don Quixote (Hardcover)
How to approach the novel voted as the most influential in the world by a comprehensive survey of international authors? With extreme caution, was my first thought. And my second. My third was, `life is too short'. And my fourth? `Life is too short. So read it!' It's only taken me (insert appropriate numbers of years without revealing age) to follow my own advice.

One can't avoid charges of elitism, literary snobbism, and a certain aestheticism when hefting such a freighted tome from office to subway to bedroom, and back again. People cast a wary eye your way. And who can blame them? My CEO was particularly disgruntled to find it nestling in my bag when a hiccup occurred on a recent P&L re-forecast. And to be honest, there's a small part of you that deliberately courts these charges. I'm reminded of the story of a friend who was reading an Ian McEwan novel and who happened to mention the fact to his grandfather, an esteemed Don of Literature at a suitably esteemed University. The Don snorted derisively and said, `Why are you wasting your time with that trash? The reason classics of literature are called `classic' my boy, is because they are genuinely better in every way than that ... that over-hyped tripe'. This possibly almost defines elitism, no doubt. But I have some sympathy with the crusty Don's view. We avoid classics of literature, to our own cost and impoverishment.

My fear in approaching DQ had to do with the idea that it was, in essence, a very long book with a limited theme (hopeless idealism banging its head repeatedly against reality), spun out ad infinitum. And in truth, it is that. But it's also so much more. What I wasn't prepared for was the shading and sophistication of characterisation embodied by the incomparable Sancho Panza. It is also very, very funny, ribald, humane, witty, daring and kind. I particularly enjoyed the `jousts' that Cervantes engages in with other literary forms, together with his portrait of Seventeenth Century Spain. Edith Grossman's wonderful translation brings this world to life with no seeming condescension to the reader or the author.

In truth, having finished the novel some weeks ago, I'm still digesting it and thinking it through. I can't tell you what it's `about'. It's `about' `everything'. Heh.
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12 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the importance of DOUBT ..., 20 Sept. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Don Quixote (Hardcover)
1575 Cervantes embarked for the umpteenth time (the Spanish king fought with his ships against Arabian kings) in the Mediterranean area, but this time he was captured by a Turkish ship and was brought as a prisoner of war to Algiers, where Cervantes spent five years in dungeon custody. In his novel we can find a fragment, where the hero Don Quijote frees a procession of galley prisoners. This chapter for example had been written with the author's knowledge of his own real time of captivity. For five months Spain's enemies put Cervantes in iron chains to break his will. But Cervantes managed a strike of twenty-five thousand prisoners of war. So Spain's enemies felt glad, when the king of Spain paid a large sum of gold, to set him free. Back in Spain Cervantes wrote his story about Don Quijote and his servant Sancho Panza, the master of doubts. And mainly this is a book about the importance of DOUBT. Cervantes knew: it could be dangerous, to fight as a hero without any doubts - that is his everlasting message. He was the forerunner of all people, who are warning, that individuals, communities or systems sometimes live a complete lie - and therefore will meet their catastrophe in their very end. But Cervantes is giving this message with humor - compare, on the other hand, the serious atmosphere of the elder parts of the bible! The ironic Odyssey of Miguel de Cervantes therefore belongs in the row of the most important cultural products in the story of Old Europe...
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Don Quixote
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Hardcover - 1 Nov. 2003)
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