Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes

Don QuixoteDon Quixote, much like Moby Dick or Gulliver’s Travels, is such a familiar part of the canon, that it often seems unnecessary to actually read it. Most educated or culturally aware adults know about tilting at windmills, and the image of the ragged knight with his trusted Sancho Panza by his side, dreaming that impossible dream, so much so that it seems almost superfluous to tackle this large, old book. When they do, they might discover that this book is far stranger, more surprising and ultimately more transformative than all but a handful of works of art ever created.

Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in two volumes. Most of the famous moments come in volume one, published in 1605, the story of an old man, intoxicated by the popular picaresque books about knights and chivalry, renames himself Don Quixote, and sets off on his mount, Rocinante and alongside his squire, Sancho Panza, to prove himself worthy of his love, Dulcinea (actually a neighboring peasant girl). The second volume came 10 years later, and was Cervantes’ response to the popularity of an unauthorized sequel written by a different author. Where the first part is more light hearted and satirical, part two becomes more serious and philosophical, as a deceived Don Quixote grapples with his sanity and the nature of reality.

Don Quixote was among the first European novels, and it remains one of the most central works of the Western Canon. Shakespeare supposedly adapted a section of the novel into his lost play, Cardenio. Authors such as Kafka and Borges reimagined and reinterpreted the adventures of the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance and his squire. Artists such as Gustave Dore and Pablo Picasso have created visual representations of the book, and both Orson Welles and Terry Gilliam famously struggled for years to create a filmed adaptation (appropriately enough, both attempts could be seen as the very definition of quixotic).

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