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.
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.
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...

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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.