On September 29, 1547, little Miguelito was born in the Castilian city of Alcalá de Henares. I can bet on a sack of silver Spanish realities that even the most penetrating relatives did not guess what the boy's career would be in the future. Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra, commonly known as simply Cervantes, is one of the most classic classics of world literature. Perhaps on the occasion of the recent anniversary of his birth you would read or refresh his opus magnum - "Don Quixote"?
That too thick? That too old fashioned? That we all know, even if we haven't read? Oh sorry! Don Quixote offers surprisingly much and it is not really worth putting it on the shelf "ticked off / old age". Here are 10 reasons why in my opinion reading this novel really pays off.
Let's start with an argument that not everyone will like, but it has weight. Don Quixote" is the importance position of the literary canon, and the canon should be known. For a very simple reason: it is difficult to competently appreciate and evaluate contemporary literature if we do not know what it is growing from. Without solid reading foundations, we won't recognize many clues, we won't catch conventions, we won't sense the craftsmanship of the continuators - and the epigone secondary. In addition, since the work has passed into the canon, it means that many people have seen something in it for many years - it's worth checking what.
There is probably no dispute as to the fact that in contemporary literature - and for many decades - the novel leads the first play. This is the most read genre, whose death has already been announced, but it soon turned out that it was a mistake.
Don Quixote is the first novel in the history of literature - in any case western and in the modern sense of the term. Cervantes himself had no idea that he was carrying out an epoch-making literary revolution: he did not particularly value Don Quixote, as evidenced we can use a ten-year delay with which he published the second part, and considered his true achievements rather are Journey to Parnassus or The Unusual Adventures of Persiles and Sigismundy. Believe me: he was wrong. In any case, the story of a crazy nobleman brought him - unfortunately very late, so he didn't enjoy them - success and recognition, as well as translations. And this Don Quixote was kept on the desk by great British precursors of the modern novel. In a word: today's novelists in unison can say, "We're all from Cervantes."
Don Quixote is most often said to be a parody of a novel about vicious knights. And that's true, this was the author's starting point, but the story quickly begins to move in a different direction - anyway, let's arrange, if it was just a parody of a genre that has not existed for centuries, who would want to read it? The deeper in the novel, the clearer we see that the crazy nobleman of La Mancha is not a fool - just a touching, tragic figure, a man who does not want to reconcile with a gray and bland reality, but is looking for something higher, some ideals, sense. Yes, it may seem ridiculous that he gets on a miserable horse, calls a bowl on his head a helmet, promotes a straight neighbor to a squire, and in an ordinary villager he notices a lady - and he still wants to fix the world in the name of imaginary ideals. But Cervantes wrote in this form a noble human longing to make reality a different, better. Don Quixote inaugurates a whole procession of literary heroes who refuse to accept the existing world - from Emma Bovary to Dave Lizewski, known as Kick-Ass: it's all his offspring.
This transformation of Don Quixote from jester to idealist becomes particularly evident in the second volume of the novel - and this is a truly remarkable case. It was like this: Cervantes published the first part of the novel in 1605. The book turned out to be a success, and that readers could not wait for the sequel, a certain Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda published his continuation, in which humor becomes even more explicit, and the knight and squire in the final land in the insane facility. Such unofficial sequels were normal practice at the time, but Cervantes was furious and started working hard on his version. As a result, incredible things happen in the second volume: the author not only pushes his hero in a completely different direction - undoubtedly looking at the mocking reflection of Avellaneda - but also argues with the false second part. Cervantes heroes meet Avellaneda, and the knight from La Mancha finds out that his double is circling the country. These are really amazing metatextual tricks, it's hard to believe that they are from the beginning of the 17th century - and that's why you shouldn't finish reading on the first volume, because in the second one really good driving begins.
As for the character: Don Quixote is not just about Don Quixote, of course. There are many more interesting heroes here, of which Sancho Pansa is obviously the leader. The knight and squire are an excellent - and repeated many times - pair based on opposites: idealist and pragmatist, spirit and matter. But Sancho is also not one-dimensional: if you get to the chapters in which it receives the promised island, you will see that it can surprise you.
It is also a funny book. The modern reader may not howl at laughter when our poor hero collects weight again, but there are many scenes and ideas saturated with accurate comic.
Nowadays, it is often the author's figure who comes to the fore and it is because of his personality that many reach for the book. Cervantes suits this trend perfectly, because it's a really amazing type. A soldier, participant in a great battle, in Muslim captivity, a civil servant sentenced to imprisonment for some embezzlement, an ambitious writer ignored by the then literary establishment - and we don't know much about him at all, there are still plenty of white spots.
Don Quixote is also a great novel about Spain. Sure, a lot has changed there since then, but when you drive through the Castile meset, sometimes - except for the asphalt of the road - you can feel just like on the pages of Cervantes novel. It is a deeply realistic novel, full of Spanish flavors.
Each country has its literary Don Quixote, and Spain has only one. Thanks to numerous translations around the world that retain archaic style, more accentuating humor and stylistic diversity of the novel. There is also plenty to choose. Of course, we skip adaptations and versions for children with a wide arc: it is not worth reading.
Finally: every good book leads to the next, and myriads of reading threads run out of Don Quixote. It is worth adding this side reading - apart from Avellaneda. Plus many other novels, poems and essays ...
Yes, Don Quixote is worth reaching for. For us and our satisfaction.