Welcome to the Don Quixote Project! This is my long-term plan to read Don Quixote in Spanish. (Actually, I would be reading Don Quijote, but you know what I mean.) As part of this, I decided to read Don Quixote in various English translations. There are many translations available—I believe I have over ten—and that they are most definitely not all created equal. What I've written about is all over the board. Thus far, I've commented on the first book.

Spreading the Word in Mexico
When I was in Mexico recently a few people asked me if I was a padre—"a priest" one helpful questioner translated for me. I like the idea of people thinking that I'm a man of the Word. Yes, it is true that my spiritual beliefs are what people charitably called atheistic. Yes, I am a hopeless moral relativist. Yes indeed, when my friends speak kindly of me, they say, "But he's our nihilist." All these things are true, but I have one thing that qualifies me to be a prophet: I am a man of the word—and most people don't pay enough attention to notice issues of capitalization.
About to Read Don Quixote
Gentle reader: you already know that this article on Don Quixote—the product of my eccentric intellect—is intended to be the greatest article I could possibly write. Unfortunately, it will probably suck; but I urge you onward nonetheless. The problem is not me, you see, but Miguel de Cervantes, and the fact that he was born in Spain and thus spoke Spanish. This is a problem, for just as you know the worthiness of my intent, you surely know that I am fluent in the Spanish language, in the sense that I can neither read nor write it. Not surprisingly, I am also unable to speak it.
The Prologue of Don Quixote
I am happy to report that one area of my translated art ingestion is going as well as I could possibly hope: reading Samuel Putnam's translaion of Don Quixote. I just started and have only read the Prologue and Chapter I, but it is lovely—and funny as hell. For example, in the Prologue, he is complaining to friend about how he has decided not to publish the book at this time because (in part) he cannot list the authors to whom he is indebted. (Cervantes would have us believe that he is simply an ignorant dolt who happens to have a flair for spinning tall tales.) He continues that he is, "unable to follow the example of all the others by listing them alphabetically at the beginning, starting with Aristotle and closing with Xenophon, or, perhaps, with Zoilus or Zeuxis, not withstanding the fact that the former was a snarling critic, and the latter a painter."
El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote De La Mancha!
The proprietor of this charming store just happened to have the 22nd edition of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote De La Mancha: Coleccion Austral behind the counter and let me have it for just five bucks! Generally, Spanish language versions of Don Quixote are at least twenty dollars, which is kind of strange given that they don't even require editors. This book, for example, doesn't even have a perfunctory preface, foreword, or introduction. (Not that these are necessary—Cervantes provided more than enough of that.)
Don Quixote in Pieces on the Ground
Don Quixote is roughly a half-million words long. The average modern novel is about 100,000 words. My first novel was 60,000 words. My current novel was supposed to 120,000 words, but it is becoming clear that it will have to be roughly double that length. The point is that Don Quixote is long. It is the longest novel I know of, and this presents a problem. Just yesterday morning, I pulled out my Putnam translation from my backpack, and found it in pieces. In one way, this is a good thing: I only have to carry around the half of it at a time because the book broke almost exactly in half (with some individual pages floating about). But this does not compensate for this book being destroyed. And it does not bode well. All of my copies of Don Quixote are in paperback, and I'm sure they too will fall apart when I get around to manhandling them.
Don Quixote Abridged: Putnam's Omissions
This is a fairly long article that discusses the four chapters that comprise "A Pastoral Interlude." Because I have been reading The Portable Cervantes that includes Putnam's abridged translation of Don Quixote, I had an opportunity to compare the translations of Samuel Putnam and Edith Grossman. In particular, I look at the ways that the two translators go about translating Cervantes' poetry. Also, I discuss Putnam's abridgment: what he includes and what he excludes. There is much here of interest to Don Quixote fans.
Don Quixote and the Death of Culture
In 1940, the Boston Public Library had an exhibit of rare Don Quixote related books: both old copies of Don Quixote and books mentioned in Chapter XI. It interesting that in the middle of the Great Depression, the BPL was able to put on such a great exhibition and publish a wonderful discussion of it, while now during the Lesser Depression, we see public libraries having to greatly reduce hours because of budget cuts. This article includes a PDF copy of the April 1940 issue of More Books: The Bulletin of the Boston Public Library. It is an excellent resource for scholars of Don Quixote.
Carole Slade Saves Tobias Smollett (09 Dec 2011 09:11pm)
For years, I've noticed these special classics published and sold by Barnes & Noble. I've never bought one, probably because the bindings seemed to be poor. But yesterday, over at Treehorn Books, I found a used copy of their Don Quixote for $5—only half its already low cover price of $9.95. I ...
Lope and Cervantes: the Feud (09 Feb 2012 08:06pm)
Back in 1980, Professor Melveena McKendrick wrote a stunning biography of Miguel de Cervantes. I went through several biographies before landing on this treasure that is written in a more lively and engaging style than most modern novels. I'm no expert, so I don't know if the research in the book is...
Quixotic Justification
The word quixotic means "foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals." However, when I think of Don Quixote, this is not what I think. Instead, I think of wonderfully twisted logic to justify crazy behavior.
The Cave of Salamanca (11 Feb 2012 12:08pm)
Yesterday, I picked up a book from the library (in the closed stacks), A Treasury of the Theatre. The reason was that it included one of Cervantes's plays, and I have been keen to read his theatrical work because it was not considered good at the time and is generally discounted today. Melveena McKe...
This is Not Cervantes (24 Feb 2012 02:23pm)
I've written before about Melveena McKendrick's exceptional biography, Cervantes. I just want to finish it off by providing a few quotations that I thought were very good. Probably the most important thing I learned about Cervantes in this book is that the portrait of him (seen on the left), is not...
The 500 Plays of Lope We Have Not Read (18 Mar 2012 07:29pm)
While reading Melveena McKendrick's Cervantes, I became really interested in Lope de Vega, the great playwright of the turn of the 17th century. I had already been intrigued by this towering figure of Spanish drama, because of what Gray Taylor had written about how our focus on Shakespeare blinds us...
Cardenio (08 Apr 2012 07:57pm)
The first philosopher I ever read was Arthur Schopenhauer. I have no idea why. However, his thinking seems to have infected me. I keep thinking about his basic view of the futility of life. Basically: I keep doing the things I do so that I can keep doing the things that I do. I eat today so I will b...
Raffel's Unique Don Quixote (16 Jul 2012 12:50pm)
As I read through Don Quixote, I try to mix it up in terms of translations. As readers know, my favorite translation is Putnam for various reasons, but most especially because his translation is distinctly better than previous translations and no translation since is distinctly better than his. None...
Conservative Quixotes (23 Jul 2012 07:17pm)
All-star fucktard, Jonah Goldberg has something to say about the United Nations. You know conservatives: they don't like the United Nations because it represents the promise of cooperation. And it goes against this ridiculous notion of American Exceptionalism. This is why conservatives get apoplecti...
Making Don Quixote Dramatic
I just finished reading two translations of the first part of Don Quixote and I've begun to see it in a whole new way, at least in terms of theatrical production. Cervantes does something that was greatly improved upon by later writers: he brings a number of subplots together with the main plot. It isn't clear that he knows that he's doing this, because he doesn't make good use of it.
Monsignor Quixote (14 Sep 2012 03:57pm)
There is a great deal of moral thought in Graham Greene's Monsignor Quixote. I just want to finish off my thoughts on this novel, which I discussed in video form a couple of weeks ago. In modern America, I think of Christians as being selfish conservatives who think the poor are morally inferior. I...
Spreading the Quixotic Word (05 Jan 2013 11:40am)
If you read this blog even causally, you know what a fan I am of Don Quixote. It is a delightful book that everyone should read. In a way, my writing about the book is an effort to share my joy about Cervantes' crowning achievement. But there are other ways to do that. Here's one. I could go door t...
Quixote Vs. Kowalski (05 Jul 2013 11:44am)
You all know what a Don Quixote fan I am. What you probably don't know is that I've been trying to write my own take on the tale. To some extent, I've been inspired by Graham Greene's Monsignor Quixote. I am trying to do something quite different, however. I want to stay much closer to the original....
Rutherford, Humor, and Don Quixote (27 Apr 2014 07:52pm)
I got an interesting question from reader Aster about the Jervas translation of Don Quixote. In his version of Jervas, the opening sentence of the preface was different from what I had quoted in About to Read Don Quixote. It turned out that both sentences were correct. It is just that some editors c...

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Getting to the Bottom of Things
Practical advice for defecating. I justify my obsession with this subject by quoting from Francois Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel.