Saturday, August 11, 2012

Don Quixote Part 1: Part 2

I finished reading Part 1 and was torn.  Should I proceed immediately to Part 2 or should I return to the curriculum of the Harvard Classics series and move back to The Aeneid.  I sought the advice of my friend Christopher who strongly urged me to read Part 2 immediately.  He said it was even better than Part 1, which sold me as Part 1 was, as I've said, one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've had in recent memory.

I still wonder why Dr. Eliot only included Part 1 in his series.  I mentioned this to Laurie with a few of my own guesses: the meta-content of Part 2 might be more in line with contemporary thought than Dr. Eliot (making Cervantes ahead of not only his own, but also of Dr. Eliot's time), maybe something as simple as space constraints, or at the end of Part 1 just sort of shrugging his shoulders and saying "Eh, I think you get the point."  Laurie suggested, and I think she may have it, that perhaps Part 1 was more historically influential as it was written quite some time before Part 2.  So much, in fact, that someone else came along and wrote a "false" Part 2 before Cervantes finished his authentic conclusion.  By the time the authentic Part 2 came to be, Cervantes was already a world renowned figure, with a reported offer to teach Castilian in China with Quixote 1 as the textbook, and even likely having a play penned by William Shakespeare based upon Cardenio's story (one of Shakespeare's "lost" plays, which hasn't stopped a few theater companies from mounting productions of what might be Shakespeare's Cardenio.)  The world in which Cervantes lived when he wrote Part 2 was a world that knew Cervantes.

So much of the action of Don Quixote does not involve Don Quixote.  So much of the delight in the parts of the action which do involve Don Quixote are not so much delightful for the action, but for the conversation and ideas.  In spite of the fact that this book is a rip-roaring good narrative after chivalry, I felt that one of the key delights of this book is that it is a book of ideas.  One of the other other key delights of this book is the scope of its humanity.  Of course, the major delight of the book is simply the sheer quality of the writing and story-telling.  It is amazing to have a book where you are involved in the story of two character that you love interrupted by another new character or circumstance bringing several chapters of a completely unrelated story, and you are in no way annoyed by this.  Perhaps I should speak for myself, but I am.  I was simply enchanted the whole way through.

Again, it is too huge to survey all that I loved: the story of the Moorish prisoner, Don Quixote's penitent madness in the wilderness, the canon's speech about a minister of culture, Don Quixote's response to the priest's disparaging remarks about books of chivalry (in which he expresses the Fruit of the Spirit he has exhibited since becoming a knight errant, which would be true if it weren't for the fact that he is barking mad and all of his assumptions are based upon premises which lay outside of consensus reality, leading him to, say, attack a group of penitents in order to free the effigy of the Virgin Mary that they are carrying), Anselmo and Lotario, Don Francisco, the battle against the wineskins, the return of the whipped child, and so on and so forth.  What I have read thus far dances in my head and I was sorry to see it end (and end so abruptly.)  I am grateful for the permission slip to make haste into Part 2.

In my previous post, I imagined I would break this reading into 3 responses, but I think 4 will be more likely at this point.  More soon.


  1. Have you encountered a tale of the construction of a brass/brazen head yet in Part 1 or 2, please tell me where it is Paul !

  2. I have not yet, so I assume it's in Part 2. I will let you know when I come to it.