Don Quixote, errant knight and sane madman, with the company of his faithful squire and wise fool, Sancho Panza, together roam the world and haunt readers' imaginations as they have for nearly four hundred years.
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About the Author
Ilan Stavans (abridgement and new introduction)is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, USA. He is publisher of Restless Books and host of the NPR show In Contrast . He has rendered Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and Juan Rulfo into English; Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson and Richard Wilbur into Spanish; Isaac Bashevis Singer from Yiddish; Yehuda Amichai from Hebrew; and Miguel de Cervantes, Dickens and Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince into Spanglish. His award-winning books, adapted for radio, TV and theatre, have been translated into 20 languages. In 2018, he adapted Don Quixote de la Mancha into a best-selling graphic novel (illustrated by Venezuelan cartoonist Roberto Weil).
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Of the quality and amusements of the renowned Don Quixote de la Mancha
In a certain corner of la Mancha, the name of which I do not choose to remember, there lately lived one of those country gentlemen, who adorn their halls with a rusty lance and worm-eaten target, and ride forth on the skeleton of a horse, to course with a sort of a starved greyhound.
Three fourths of his income were scarce sufficient to afford a dish of hodge-podge, in which the mutton bore no proportion to the beef, for dinner; a plate of salmagundy, commonly at supper; gripes and grumblings on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and the addition of a pigeon or some such thing on the Lord's-day. The remaining part of his revenue was consumed in the purchase of a fine black suit, with velvet breeches and slippers of the same, for holy-days; and a coat of home-spun, which he wore in honour of his country, during the rest of the week.
He maintained a female housekeeper turned of forty, a niece of about half that age, and a trusty young fellow, fit for field and market, who could turn his hand to anything, either to saddle the horse or handle the hough.
Our squire, who bordered upon fifty, was of a tough constitution, extremely meagre, and hard-featured, an early riser, and in point of exercise, another Nimrod. He is said to have gone by the name of Quixada, or Quesada, (for in this particular, the authors who mention that circumstance, disagree) though from the most probable conjectures, we may conclude, that he was called by the significant name of Quixada; but this is of small importance to the history, in the course of which it will be sufficient if we swerve not farther from the truth.
Be it known, therefore, that this said honest gentleman at his leisure hours, which engrossed the greatest part of the year, addicted himself to the reading of books of chivalry, which he perused with such rapture and application, that he not only forgot the pleasures of the chase, but also utterly neglected the management of his estate: nay to such a pass did his curiosity and madness, in this particular, drive him, that he sold many good acres of Terra Firma, to purchase books of knight-errantry, with which he furnished his library to the utmost of his power; but, none of them pleased him so much, as those that were written by the famous Feliciano de Sylva, whom he admired as the pearl of all authors, for the brilliancy of his prose, and the beautiful perplexity of his expression. How was he transported, when he read those amorous complaints, and doughty challenges, that so often occur in his works.
'The reason of the unreasonable usage my reason has met with, so unreasons my reason, that I have reason to complain of your beauty': and how did he enjoy the following flower of composition! 'The high Heaven of your divinity, which with stars divinely fortifies your beauty, and renders you meritorious of that merit, which by your highness is merited!'
The poor gentleman lost his senses, in poring over, and attempting to discover the meaning of these and other such rhapsodies, which Aristotle himself would not be able to unravel, were he to rise from the dead for that purpose only. He could not comprehend the probability of those direful wounds, given and received by Don Bellianis, whose face, and whole carcase, must have remained quite covered with marks and scars, even allowing him to have been cured by the most expert surgeons of the age in which he lived.
He, notwithstanding, bestowed great commendations on the author, who concludes his book with the promise of finishing that interminable adventure; and was more than once inclined to seize the quill, with a view of performing what was left: undone; nay, he would have actually accomplished the affair, and published it accordingly, had not reflections of greater moment employed his imagination, and diverted him from the execution of that design.
Divers and obstinate were the disputes he maintained against the parson of the parish, (a man of some learning, who had taken his degrees at Siguenza,) on that puzzling question, whether Palmerin of England, or Amadis de Gaul, was the most illustrious knight-errant: but master Nicholas, who acted as barber to the village, affirmed, that none of them equalled the Knight of the Sun, or indeed could be compared to him in any degree, except Don Galaor, brother of Amadis de Gaul; for his disposition was adapted to all emergencies; he was neither such a precise, nor such a puling coxcomb as his brother; and in point of valour, his equal at least.
So eager and entangled was our Hidalgo* in this kind of history, that he would often read from morning to night, and from night to morning again, without interruption; till at last, the moisture of his brain being quite exhausted with indefatigable watching and study, he fairly lost his wits: all that he had read of quarrels, enchantments, battles, challenges, wounds, tortures, amorous complaints, and other improbable conceits, took full possession of his fancy; and he believed all those romantic exploits so implicitly, that in his opinion, the holy scripture was not more true. He observed that Cid Ruy dias was an excellent knight; but not equal to the Lord of the Flaming-sword, who with one backstroke had cut two fierce and monstrous giants through the middle. He had still a better opinion of Bernardo del Carpio, who, at the battle of Roncevalles, put the enchanter Orlando to death, by the same means that Hercules used, when he strangled the earth-born Anteon. Neither was he silent in the praise of Morgante, who, though of that gigantic race, which is noted for insolence and incivility, was perfectly affable and well bred. But his chief favourite was Reynaldo of Montalvan, whom he hugely admired for his prowess, in sallying from his castle to rob travellers; and above all things, for his dexterity in stealing that idol of the impostor Mahomet, which, according to the history, was of solid gold. For an opportunity of pummelling the traitor Galalon, he would willingly have given his housekeeper, body and soul, nay, and his niece into the bargain. In short, his understanding being quite perverted, he was seized with the strangest whim that ever entered the brain of a madman. This was no other, than a full persuasion, that it was highly expedient and necessary, not only for his own honour, but also for the good of the public, that he should profess knight-errantry, and ride through the world in arms, to seek adventures, and conform in all points to the practice of those itinerant heroes, whose exploits he had read; redressing all manner of grievances, and courting all occasions of exposing himself to such dangers, as in the event would entitle him to everlasting renown. This poor lunatic looked upon himself already as good as seated, by his own single valour, on the throne of Trebisond; and intoxicated with these agreeable vapours of his unaccountable folly, resolved to put his design in practice forthwith.
In the first place, he cleaned an old suit of armour, which had belonged to some of his ancestors, and which he found in his garret, where it had lain for several ages, quite covered over with mouldiness and rust: but having scoured and put it to rights, as well as he could, he perceived, that instead of a complete helmet, there was only a simple head-piece without a beaver. This unlucky defect, however, his industry supplied by a vizor, which he made of pasteboard, and fixed so artificially to the morrion, that it looked like an entire helmet. True it is, that in order to try if it was strong enough to risk his jaws in, he unsheathed his sword, and bestowed upon it two hearty strokes, the first of which in a twinkling, undid his whole week's labour: he did not at all approve of the facility with which he hewed it in pieces, and therefore, to secure himself from any such danger for the future, went to work anew, and faced it with a plate of iron, in such a manner, as that he remained satisfied of its strength, without putting it to a second trial, and looked upon it as a most finished piece of armour.
He next visited his horse, which (though he had more corners than a rial, being as lean as Gonela's, that tantum pellis et ossa fuit) nevertheless, in his eye, appeared infinitely preferable to Alexander's Bucephalus, or the Cid's Babieca. Four days he consumed, in inventing a name for this remarkable steed; suggesting to himself, what an impropriety it would be, if an horse of his qualities belonging to such a renowned knight, should go without some sounding and significant appellation: he therefore resolved to accommodate him with one that should not only declare his past, but also his present capacity; for he thought it but reasonable, that since his master had altered his condition, he should also change his name, and invest him with some sublime and sonorous epithet, suitable to the new order and employment he professed: accordingly, after having chosen, rejected, amended, tortured and revolved a world of names, in his imagination, he fixed upon Rozinante, an appellation, in his opinion, lofty, sonorous and expressive, not only of his former, but likewise of his present situation, which entided him to the preference over all other horses under the sun. Having thus denominated his horse, so much to his own satisfaction, he was desirous of doing himself the like justice, and after eight days study, actually assumed the tide of Don Quixote: from whence, as hath been observed, the authors of this authentic history, concluded, that his former name must have been Quixada, and not Quesada, as others are pleased to affirm: but recollecting, that the valiant Amadis, not satisfied with that simple appellation, added to it, that of his country, and in order to dignify the place of his nativity, called himself Amadis de Gaul; he resolved, like a worthy knight, to follow such an illustrious example, and assume the name of Don Quixote de la Mancha; which, in his opinion, fully expressed his generation, and at the same time, reflected infinite honour on his fortunate country.
Accordingly his armour being scoured, his beaver fitted to his headpiece, his steed accommodated with a name, and his own dignified with these additions, he reflected, that nothing else was wanting, but a lady to inspire him with love; for a knight-errant without a mistress, would be like a tree destitute of leaves and fruit, or a body without a soul. 'If,' said he, 'for my sins, or rather for my honour, I should engage with some giant, an adventure common in knight-errantry, and overthrow him in the field, by cleaving him in twain, or in short, disarm and subdue him, will it not be highly proper, that I should have a mistress, to whom I may send my conquered foe, who coming into the presence of the charming fair, will fall upon his knees, and say, in an humble and submissive tone, "Incomparable princess, I am the giant Carculiambro, lord of the island Malindrania, who being vanquished in single combat by the invincible knight Don Quixote de la Mancha, am commanded by him to present myself before your beauty, that I may be disposed of, according to the pleasure of your highness?"' How did the heart of our worthy knight dance with joy, when he uttered this address; and still more, when he found a lady worthy of his affection! This, they say, was an hale, buxom country-wench, called Aldonza Lorenzo, who lived in the neighbourhood, and with whom he had formerly been in love; though by all accounts, she never knew, nor gave herself the least concern about the matter. Her he looked upon as one qualified, in all respects, to be the queen of his inclinations; and putting his invention again to the rack, for a name that should bear some affinity with her own, and at the same time become a princess or lady of quality, he determined to call her Dulcinea del Toboso, she being a native of that place, a name, in his opinion, musical, romantic and expressive, like the rest which he had appropriated to himself and his concerns.
Of the sage Don Quixote s first sally from his own habitation
These preparations being made, he could no longer resist the desire of executing his design; reflecting with impatience, on the injury his delay occasioned in the world, where there was abundance of grievances to be redressed, wrongs to be rectified, errors amended, abuses to be reformed, and doubts to be removed; he therefore, without communicating his intention to any body, or being seen by a living soul, one morning before day, in the scorching month of July, put on his armour, mounted Rozinante, buckled his ill-contrived helmet, braced his target, seized his lance, and, thro' the back door of his yard, sallied into the fields, in a rapture of joy, occasioned by this easy and successfiil beginning of his admirable undertaking: but, scarce was he clear of the village, when he was assaulted by such a terrible objection, as had well-nigh induced our hero to abandon his enterprise directly: for, he recollected that he had never been knighted; and therefore, according to the laws of chivalry, he neither could nor ought to enter the lists with any antagonist of that degree; nay, even granting he had received that mark of distinction, it was his duty to wear white armour, like a new knight, without any device in his shield, until such time as his valour should entitle him to that honour.
These cogitations made him waver a little in his plan; but his madness prevailing over every other consideration, suggested, that he might be dubbed by the first person he should meet, after the example of many others who had fallen upon the same expedient; as he had read in those mischievous books which had disordered his imagination. With respect to the white armour, he proposed, with the first opportunity, to scour his own, until it should be fairer than ermine; and having satisfied his conscience in this manner, he pursued his design, without following any other road than that which his horse was pleased to choose; being persuaded, that in so doing, he manifested the true spirit of adventure. Thus proceeded our flaming adventurer, while he uttered the following soliloquy:
'Doubtless, in future ages, when the true history of my famed exploits shall come to light, the sage author, when he recounts my first and early sally, will express himself in this manner: "Scarce had ruddy Phoebus, o'er this wide and spacious earth, display'd the golden threads of his refulgent hair; and scarce the little painted warblers with their forky tongues, in soft, mellifluous harmony, had hail'd the approach of rosy-wing'd Aurora, who stealing from her jealous husband's couch, thro' the balconies and aerial gates of Mancha's bright horizon, stood confess'd to wondering mortals; when lo! the illustrious knight Don Quixote de la Mancha, up-springing from the lazy down, bestrode fam'd Rozinante his unrival'd steed! and thro' Montiel's ancient, well known field (which was really the case) pursu'd his way."' Then he added, 'O fortunate age! O happy times! in which shall be made public my incomparable achievements, worthy to be engraved in brass, on marble sculptured, and in painting shewn, as great examples to futurity! and O! thou sage enchanter, whosoever thou may'st be, doom'd to record the wondrous story! forget not, I beseech thee, my trusty Rozinante, the firm companion of my various fate!' Then turning his horse, he exclaimed, as if he had been actually in love, 'O Dulcinea! sovereign princess of this captive heart, what dire affliction hast thou made me suffer, thus banished from thy presence with reproach, and fettered by thy rigourous command, not to appear again before thy beauteous face! Deign, princess, to remember this thy faithful slave, who now endures such misery for love of thee!' These and other such rhapsodies he strung together; imitating, as much as in him lay, the style of those ridiculous books which he had read; and jogged along, in spite of the sun which beam'd upon him so intensely hot, that surely his brains, if any had remained, would have been fried in his skull: that whole day, did he travel, without encountering any thing worth mentioning; a circumstance that grieved him sorely, for he had expected to find some object on which he could try the prowess of his valiant arm.
Some authors say his first adventure was that of the pass of Lapice, but others affirm, that the windmills had the maidenhead of his valour: all that I can aver of the matter, in consequence of what I found recorded in the annals of la Mancha, is, that having travelled the whole day, his horse and he, about twilight, found themselves excessively wearied and half dead with hunger; and that looking around for some castle or sheep cot, in which he might allay the cravings of nature, by repose and refreshment; he decried not far from the road, an inn, which he looked upon as the star that would guide him to the porch, if not the palace, of his redemption: in this hope, he put spurs to his horse, and just in the twilight reached the gate, where, at that time, there happened to be two ladies of the game, who being on their journey to Seville, with the carriers, had chanced to take up their night's lodging in this place.
As our hero's imagination converted whatsoever he saw, heard or considered, into something of which he had read in books of chivalry; he no sooner perceived the inn, than his fancy represented it, as a stately castle with its four towers and pinnacles of shining silver, accommodated with a drawbridge, deep moat, and all other conveniences, that are described as belonging to buildings of that kind.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've always wanted to read this book because of the fact that it's considered one of the first (if not the first) novels published. I was surprised to find that it was actually rather funny and the themes explored still hold relevance for today's world. Some parts are funnier than others; there were hours during the narration where I was completely bored and wanted to skip ahead. However, I think the good stuff outweighs the bad for this one. And seriously, if you know anybody who takes movies, books, films, etc. stuff too seriously, then you will have some laughs at this novel.Besides, Don Quixote is a classic and I still recommend that everyone read it. It's also fun to see how the novel has evolved from the 1600's until now.As for reading this as an audiobook, well, to be honest, I didn't like the narration all that much. Not enough emotion was put in it, in my opinion. It wasn't told in monotone, but it was told in a distanced, controlled story-teller voice. Because of this, I found myself tuning out parts of the book because Whitfield's voice wasn't keeping my attention.
I liked this book better the first time I read it, but maybe that was because I didn't feel quite as rushed the first time around. It's easier for a teen to find time to wade through this very long book, than it is for an adult. It's still a reasonably enjoyable read, though.