31 Jan

Late last night I finished the 2nd part of Don Quixote. I have read all 940 pages of Edith Grossman’s translation of The Ingenious Gentelman Don Quixote of La Mancha. It feels like a real accomplishment to me as this is the longest book I have ever read.

It took me far too long–almost exactly 13 months–to finish reading this book. Instead of devoting myself to Don Quixote as he did to his adventures as a knight-errant, I took my time with this work and let my readings of it ebb and flow. In between my readings of this novel I read 37 books in 2015 and have already finished reading 5 by the time I got to finishing this book.

The heart of the problem was this: I was unprepared for such an endeavor. Reading a novel, even a difficult classic novel, is one thing. At 300 or 400 pages you know that your suffering will soon be rewarded and you will reach the point where you may claim that you “have read” that classic work that everyone says they would love to read but hardly anyone does. But I was unprepared for the marathon that is Don Quixote. Many times I felt like Sancho Panza while reading this work! Trying to find the end to my suffering. As much as I love this work, it was a challenge to get through. And I feel so regretful to not be able to read it in its native language.

That being said: This is one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It is the funniest and saddest book I have ever read and reveals more about human nature than I thought a book could. It delves into our perception of what is real and what is not real; asks the question “what is truth? my truth or your truth?”; and it wonders at what is better: to leap out of your ordinary life, follow your dream, though you look like a madman or to remain sane and live the life you were given? It is no wonder that this book has been an inspiration to so many.

The question as to whether Don Quixote is the maddest man you will ever meet or the sanest man you will ever meet is a legitimate question to many of the people he encounters in this story. Could he be aware that the windmills are not giants but he desires it so much that he makes it so? Or is he really mad enough to see giants in those large mills? I want him to be mad and sane, I want him to live on forever reaching out for his dream even though, like many of the people around him are aware, it is likely to be the death of him.

I won’t spoil the ending but this is clearly a canonical work of literature for a reason and one that I think everyone should make the effort to read–if not the 2nd part then at least the first.

“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.”

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

“Take my advice and live for a long, long time. Because the maddest thing a man can do in this life is to let himself die.”



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