A mind-numbing quest

I never thought I’d say this about a classic, but I should have bought the Cliffs Notes.

I have just finished listening to the most boring book I’ve ever read. In its introduction by author and Yale professor of humanities Harold Bloom. I am told the book “is a mirror held up not to nature, but to the reader.” Oh, dear.

Yet, on lists of “Top 100 Books of All Time” and “Top 100 Classics,” this one ranks near the top - widely regarded as the first modern novel and described as one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written. One hundred of the world’s writers of modern fiction declared it the best fiction ever written.

The first part of the book does contain two novellas, which are quite entertaining and would have stood alone.

A word meaning “idealistic and urealistic about practical matters” was introduced to the English language as a result of the main character's adventures.

And, everyone thinks it’s clever to talk about “tilting at windmills.”

I’d love to see a survey of how many people actually finished this classic.

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. English translation by Edith Grossman.

Dr. Grossman, whose 2003 translation has been highly praised, says Cervantes’ writing “gives off sparks and flows like honey.” “If my translation works at all,” she writes, “the reader should keep turning the pages, smiling a good deal, periodically bursting into laughter and impatiently waiting for the next synonym, the next mind-bending coincidence, the next variation on the structure of Don Quixote’s adventures, the next incomparable conversation between the knight and his squire.”

She tells me if I did not find the work “compelling” and “amusing,” the fault is hers. I honestly do not know if the problem lies with her, with me or with the writer, but the Library of Congress annotation tells me, “Unless you read Spanish you’ve never read Don Quixote.”

Ah, but I finished it before it finished me.

I am glad to be free of your prison, Cervantes, you Enchanter!


Anonymous said...

Tiny well remembers reading this in college. She concluded back then that Don Quixote is a tilted
windmill. We laughed at his crazy antics back then. Being more advanced in living, one has to ponder if we've fell victim to the tilted windmills!

Great synopsis and enlightening info. Tiny has to re-read this for college prep.

Frodo, better than Cervantes, said...

Frodo's interest in the work of Cervantes culminates in the production of but a single song. If that unbelievably boring book, and its repetitious parade of forgettable characters does nothing else, it did lead to "To Dream the Impossible Dream. . .".

Had the protagonist of "The Odyssey" or "Canterbury Tales" come across poorly-defined characters such as those described by the "Spanish Shakespeare," no school child would have ever been exposed to the Cyclops, or the Wife of Bath.

Leslie Parsley said...

Don Quixote wasn't the only boring classic I had to struggle through. There was always Hawthorne.

B.J. said...

I need to reread some Hawthorne. I like his short story, “My Kinsman, Major Molineux.” The most interesting thing about Hawthorne is his biography and his offspring. Trivia: Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne’s genius. So many classics are a struggle, but worth the read. “Middlemarch” didn’t grab me until the final fourth of the book. IMHO, no one can go wrong with Jane Austen. OK, back to doing nothing, LOL. BJ

Infidel753 said...

I've never read Don Quixote, but it wouldn't surprise me if many people feel compelled to praise anything considered a "classic" just to show that they're sophisticated.

I'm not biased against writing of an older era -- I loved Dracula and a lot of HG Wells's work -- but some writers back in those days did, ah, rather take their time in getting to the point.