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Surprisingly violent and sadistic,
This review is from: Don Quixote (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Small-town gentleman Quijano, in his 50s, has read so many chivalric romances that he has begun to believe their tales of knights, damsels, dragons and ogres are really true. One day he decides to leave home as a knight errant… and the rest is literary history.
A few things surprised or stood out for me, reading this. Quijote is intermittently wise and sensible, and then mad and extremely violent. Sancho is prone both to canniness and stupidity. But the contrasts somehow deepened their characters rather than made them inconsistent. The famous attacking-the-windmills scene is unexpectedly short. The book is very violent and has a large streak of sadistic humour that was a bit much sometimes. But it’s also often really funny, even though (a friend told me) a modern English reader misses a lot of the jokes. For instance, La Mancha is known in Spain, apparently, for being the most dull, empty and unromantic region of the country, so that ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha’ would have to the Spanish reader an effect like ‘Sir Gawain of Swindon’. The novel’s particularly unusual in that the ‘sequel’ – Volume 2, published ten years later – is even better than Vol 1. The first volume loses interest in Don Quijote and Sancho Panza for long periods, as they meet people who tell them long stories of romance, in which the lost lover tends to appear, by fantastic coincidence, a bit further on. In the second volume, Don Quijote learns that Volume 1 has been published and that he is famous, and so when he sets off again his reputation precedes him and many more people are lining up to play tricks on him, producing an ever richer set of crazy, cruel and amusing situations.