A little short of two weeks down, and I am at about the 100 page mark (I have a long way to go...). I am finding Don Quixote surprisingly easy to read. I thought the language was going to be archaic and I was going to be lost, but the writing is very clear, or maybe this is just a very good translation (I'm reading the Grossman). Each chapter, and I read about a chapter or two a day, can almost stand alone. The chapters seem to be episodic in nature, and I am assuming that they reflect the form of chivalric tales. It has been easy to read a bit and then set the book down for later, then pick it back up again the following day and continue on.
While the story is easy to read, don't assume it lacks depth in any way. It is the sort of book that can be read on many levels as I am sure many readers have already mentioned. As a matter of fact the depths of DQ that can be plumbed are rather deep, I'd say. I admire how Sylvia is approaching the reading of the text. I'm sort of somewhere in the middle. I am reading for enjoyment (I'd like to take notes, but as I am reading this mostly on the bus it doesn't lend itself to easy note taking), but I also want to see what Cervantes was attempting (and succeeded obviously) to accomplish. I want to know how and why. I am finding I have a lot of questions as I read. I don't have any answers yet (these are early days yet). Maybe this is how I should approach my reading--write down all my questions as they come to me and see which are answered as I get to the end. And what hasn't been answered can be discussed with the other Tilters.
I don't really feel like I can analyse anything at the moment (and lots of things have come up and are swishing around in my brain), but I can share some passages that I have found amusing. And there are lots of them! The book begins with a gentleman by the name of Quixada or Quexada who has lost his mind (has he really lost his mind?---one of my questions--and whether he has or hasn't seems to have lots of implications on the characters and the story). How has he lost it, you ask.
"In short, our gentleman became so caught up in reading that he spent his nights reading from dusk till dawn and his days reading from sunrise to sunset, and so with too little sleep and too much reading his brains dried up, causing him to lose his mind. His fantasy filled with everything he had read in his books, enchantments as well as combats, battles, challenges, wounds, courtings, loves, torments, and other impossible foolishness, and he became so convinced that his imagination of the truth of all the countless grandiloquent and false inventions he read that for him no history in the world was truer."
I wonder sometimes if I read too much as well. Maybe my brains are becoming addled, too? I guess I will have to watch how many chivalric tales I consume and keep them to a minimum. Can I just say that Miguel de Cervantes was a gas? Really. Some of the things that happen are quite funny. Well, there is some violence, and I am not sure how to interpret those sections (another question). But some of the scenes are slapstick funny. The man could have written skits for the The Three Stooges, and I am not trying to be disrespectful. Take for example a scene I just read yesterday.
"By the light of the innkeeper's lamp, the muledriver saw what was happening to his lady, and leaving Don Quixote, he hurried to give her the help she needed. The innkeeper also approached, but with a different purpose, because he went to her to punish the girl, believing, no doubt, that she alone was the reason for so much harmony. And, as the old saying goes, the cat chased the rat, the rat chased the rope, the rose chased the stick: the muledriver hit Sancho, Sancho hit the girl, the girl hit Sancho, the innkeeper hit the girl, and all of them acted so fast and furiously that they did not let up for an instant; then, the best part was that the innkeeper's lamp went out, and since they were in darkness, everyone hit everyone with so little mercy that wherever their hands landed they left nothing whole and sound."
Just picture it. Complete madness. And I am not even quoting the whole chapter! The book so far is full of misunderstandings. Whatever Don Quixote looks at, he doesn't really see. His entire frame of reference is what he has read in his novels of chivalry. His reality is filtered through these books. I'm very curious how this will continue, and particularly how it will all end!
Illustration is by Gustave Dore.