Sunday, June 3, 2007

contemplating don quixote


I've inserted a watercolor done at my life drawing session last week. The pensive mood is nice, and it's time to start another novel, which will involve some casting about for concept and theme. My present evening reading is Cervantes’s “Don Quixote,” translated by Edith Grossman. I’ve read other, earlier translations, but this is both scholarly and a handsome edition, replete with footnotes about Cervantes’s story references, and the manuscript history. A jacket blurb by Lionel Trilling says, “It can be said that all prose fiction is a variation on the theme of “Don Quixote.” Perhaps. The theme of an addled but learned man coming centuries late to the call of knightly chivalry, and setting out in comical, makeshift knight’s regalia to seek adventure, has the ingredients of a comical farce, and yet, it never admits to anything like tongue-in-cheek comedy. We groan and shake our heads at Quixote’s foibles, even smile, ruefully, but the language, and often the wisdom sweep us along. Another jacket blurb by Milan Kundera says it well, “Don Quixote is practically unthinkable as a living being, and yet, in our memory, what character is more alive?” There are many story variations on this hero’s journey, or quest, from the crossing of the threshold from our world into the story world, the trials the hero must face along the journey, the winning (or losing) of some treasure, and the return—richer or poorer, in wealth or spirit. Perhaps none have, or will, make the journey quite like Don Quixote.

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