Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes


This was not the longest book I’ve ever read (close, though). However, it certainly felt like the longest book I’ve ever read. The problem is not the length – the problem is that until the last 150 pages, there is no continuous plot to keep you invested in the story. Everybody knows that this is the story of a crazy guy who decides to be a knight one day, and how he and his squire go on crazy adventures together and hilarity and tilting at windmills ensues. What people might not know, however, is that there’s no overarching quest, no ultimate goal. This book is over a thousand pages of, “Don Quixote did this. And then he did this. And then he went here and this happened. And then this person told a story. And then they did this.” On and on and on, it’s just dumb adventure after dumb adventure, and they’re literally interchangeable – the timeline of the story doesn’t matter at all.

Not that the stories are bad, necessarily. Sure, some of them are stupid and pointless, and involving humor based on someone barfing or pooping (there’s an oh-so-hilarious bit where Don Quixote vomits in Sancho Panza’s mouth, which then makes Sancho throw up. LITERATURE).  The stories tend to repeat themselves (oh hey look, another hot Middle Eastern chick who we only like because she converted to Christianity), but they’re usually funny, at least. But without an overall plot linking the stories together or giving them some significance, nothing really matters. (speaking of which, did anybody see Sucker Punch? Christ.)

Throughout the whole book, nobody ever learns anything or changes or even bothers to sit Don Quixote down and have a serious conversation about why he wants so badly to disappear into this fantasy life he’s created for himself. Ultimately, this is nothing more than a collection of funny anecdotes, with some scatological humor and attempted swashbuckling thrown in.

I said that nobody learns anything in the book, but that’s not technically true. When Don Quixote finally comes home after all his adventures, he gets sick and is dying. It’s at this point that he has a revelation: he was deluding himself with his dream of being a knight-errant, and it was all pointless and stupid. Fine, but then he takes it a step further. He decides that all the adventure books he read are the only thing to blame for this obsession, and that they should be wiped from the face of the earth so no one else can be decieved by them. He even writes his will to include the rule that if his niece wants to get married after his death, the guy had better not have read even a single knight-errantry book, or she doesn’t get her inheritence.

I don’t know what we’re supposed to take away from that. An adventure book that ends with the hero deciding that adventure books are evil and ruin people’s lives? What the hell, Cervantes?

Verdict: three out of five stars


Filed under Review

4 responses to “Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

  1. Emre Gurgen

    With two “interpolated” tales, over seventy poems, and a loose progression of events, Don Quixote does not read like a typical fiction novel. Rather, Don Quixote reads like a series of sporadic episodes with no obvious connection. Even some character names and storylines, as noted, are repeated with slight modifications.

    What gives the novel a sense of order and proportion, however, are the manifold conversations between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Without these, Don Quixote would sprawl into meaninglessness.

    Emre Gurgen

    • Um…so according to you, Don Quixote makes sense because Don Quixote and Sancho Panza talk a lot, and this is a suitable substitute for a plot? I don’t really understand your point.

      • To clarify, one organizing element of Don Quixote is the series of conversations that our knight has with his squire. If it was not for these amusing exchanges readers would feel even more disoriented by the novel’s breakaway tales.

  2. “If it was not for these amusing exchanges readers would feel even more disoriented by the novel’s breakaway tales.”

    Holy shit, Don Quixote is Pulp Fiction.

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