An Invitation to read Don Quixote, post #1

I have been wanting to do this for some time. Read Don Quixote and blog about it to invite others to read and converse.

I’m always trying to convert people to the books and authors I love, specially to Don Quixote. I want these series of posts to be informal, but I’m committed to them. My desire is to be a reading companion for those willing to read this immensely rewarding book, and maybe tip the scales in favor of reading it for those in doubt.

There’s another honest goal I have in mind. If you hate, dislike, can’t stomach the book, please, I’d love to hear your criticism and bashing. I do. You won’t be judged, I assure you. I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m not going to convince you, but I’m very interested in listening and understanding where the book failed you, or what’s that you dislike. I once disliked Jane Austen with a passion. There’s many books I didn’t like in my first reading that I’ve come to love, or simply appreciate more. Others, I still loathe.

Where can I start? Don Quixote is Spain’s baby giant.

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme,
“Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember,

Everybody knows that line. It’s the eternal subject of parodies and jokes. Much like Austen’s opening line for Pride and Prejudice, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

This is a map of Spain. The red part is Castilla – La Mancha. My dad is from Ciudad Real, a city in La Mancha. La Mancha means the stain in Spanish. It’s a region with many cities. One of them is El Toboso, Dulcinea, -Don Quixote’s dame-, was from there, thus she’s called Dulcinea del Toboso.

Ever since little, the book and its phenomena are everywhere for us, Spaniards. I’ve received different book adaptations as birthday presents, and in my youth, there were different and popular screen adaptations, one with actors, another cartoons.

We were asked to read it repeatedly growing up. I’m sure this is the book most people profess to have read but haven’t. At one time, I may have said that myself. (No Spaniard wants to admit to not have read Don Quixote). But it’s also probably the number one favorite for many known and unknown people. It was a favorite of Dostoevsky, William Faulkner, and Spanish author Ana Maria Matute, who ranked it number one, and placed Brothers Karamazov in the list as well.

Everybody knows about it. What’s about. It’s part of our culture. The adjective quixotic is part of our language. There’s many words and idioms that are now part of the English language which came from the book. I’ll be sprinkling these posts with some trivia, but I don’t want it to be a course on Cervantes or his novel. This is just a reader sharing her thoughts and the joy of her visiting or revisiting this inexhaustible classic.

I read this book for the first time when I was seventeen. In high school, we were asked to read it once more. Moved by habit and propelled by boredom, I cracked my copy open one afternoon while sitting in bed. Soon I was laughing hard. I’m not sure if I read until the last page, or if I just honed into some chapters, but some of the antipathy for the book started to evaporate.

Eighteen years or so had to pass to see me attempting this book again. It was while reading Elizabeth Gouge’s The Rosemary Tree, that a character’s mention of the book and the friendship between Don Quixote and Sancho, provoked me to it. This was the time that sealed my forever love for this classic.

At the time, I also found this audio in Spanish. It’s a pleasure to listen to that narrator. I see there’s at least these two audios in English, this one narrates Ormsby’s translation, the narrator is Roy McMillan. John Ormsby (1829–1895) is well known for his translation, which is published by Heritage Press in a great and over sized edition. That translation can be found in the public domain. A second audio is this one narrated by George Guidall from the more recent Edith Grossman’s translation. Edith Grossman was born in 1936, and she’s translated Cervantes, Márquez, Vargas Llosa, etc.

This takes me to the issue of which translation. The one which works for you. Once immersed in a translation, you’ll get used to it, and it will be you and the book. If that doesn’t happen, and the language of the translator is an obstacle to your enjoyment, pick a different one, maybe a more recent one, or an audio version.

As the long novel that it is, it merits some time to get immersed in its universe, to become familiar with the rhythm of the language, the characters, etc. I’m trying to read seven chapters per week, and to post once a week. But life happens, and these goals may vary a bit.

If you are not laughing from the beginning, something is not going well. I don’t think one has to belabor their reading of this or any classic. It has to be a pleasure since the first pages, however, give it some time, or leave a comment here or at any other post, and I’d be happy to identify why the book is failing you, -if you wish. You may very well want to throw it in the fire!

Let me know too if you’d like me to link to your blog, Goodreads, or any place where you are discussing the book. I’d gladly add that to the page with the rest of the resources, so that others and myself can read your thoughts on the book.

Before saying goodbye for now, I’d like to add that Cervantes is one of the few authors I have in great esteem not just for his work, but as a person. I do believe I would have enjoyed knowing him. He shows tremendous empathy, compassion, and tenderness along with such a peculiar sense of humor. He knows the true meaning of friendship, and he presents us with his biases and the ones of those around him, instead of covering them under a moralizing pen. (Note: there’s a lot on morality, religion, social conflicts, but I don’t find a particular belief is imposed on us, readers). Nobody comes out unscathed, regardless of their rank or place in society. But maybe the quality I admire most, would be his lack of pomp, the fact he wears his heart in his sleeve. He was 57 the summer of 1604 when he submitted the first part for publication. He died in 1616. The second part he wrote in 1615. Cervantes didn’t profit from the novel, even though it was a bestseller from the beginning. Before we start volume II, I’ll tell you more about what happened.

He lived in poverty much of his life, and he suffered, he fought in the Battle of Lepanto, and as a consequence of a shot, got crippled on one hand. (Aren’t you glad it wasn’t the hand he used for writing?) He wrote the first part in prison. He died a few days before Shakespeare, and the world would not be the same without any of these two writers.


(I’ll be updating it frequently. Add anything you want to share in the comments here or at the page, thanks).

52 thoughts on “An Invitation to read Don Quixote, post #1

  1. Last year I finally read the first half of the Grossman translation and loved it! I also read a lot of resources about the book, and then I stopped. I think all the extra research about the book wore me out! But I want to try again, so I’ll be reading along with you. Thanks for doing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! I relate. When I read the Iliad I also read so many resources that I started it burned out and didn’t enjoy it as much as The Odyssey, which I read totally free.

      I am honored that you are joining. I want to be a gentle companion, and not burden us with loads of information.

      It’s wonderful to see how many people have read the first part, but I promise you that the second has a different tone, and brings the story together in a rewarding way. It’s Cervantes’s talent at his peak. You would have been to an amazing journey with him in the end. I am excited to cross to book II with you, guys.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi. I am going to join you. I loved reading the grey house comments but only found them after I finished the book so will be nice to read asking with others this time 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Guys, I am a lucky person. I am excited and so honored to see many reading along. Thanks and cheers to a wonderful experience for each and all.


  3. I am going to attempt to follow along using the audio version as I’m up to my ears in other reads. I’m excited to have you as a guide and companion!!! I’m torn between the affordable Ornsby audio and the Grossman one, which is much more pricey.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Silvia!! This is on my list of classics to read and I would so love to read along with you here. I know you will have wonderful commentary to share! I’ve got to see if I can work this in! I’m currently reading through The Lord of the Rings trilogy with my husband (just started The Fellowship of the Rings last night). I am reading the current Modern Mrs. Darcy book club title, and also have some pre-reading I’m doing. So hmm…..I’m going to have to see if I can feasibly work it in. Of the translations you recommended, which one would you recommend for ease of reading?


    • That’s so great. What a wonderful group we have in here!
      Translation? What can you find at your local book store? If you are buying online, on the page I added called Don Quixote, I link to many, and you may be able to read a teaser of most, and decide. There’s free domain ones of older translations, if they seem too archaic, Grossman is fine. Grossman is 2003, Kim is reading Raffel, 1999.


      • I did look at your Don Quixote page. I was just wondering if there was any one of those you listed that you thought were especially readable. 🙂 My local bookstore has the Smollett translation. I went ahead and had them put a copy on hold for me and I’ll probably try to pick it up in the next couple of days. Do you have a date when you plan to start? Or have you already started reading?

        Liked by 1 person

        • My problem is that I read it in Spanish, I own Grossman’s and Ormsby’s, but I don’t know which will click with you. I know that some recommend Smollett.

          I am reading up to chapter seven, and will post late next week.


  5. I’ve just started the Rutherford translation since his stated purpose is to try to capture the humor by preserving the jokes of the original work rather than a rigorous translation. I am hoping that reading something in a more modern English will produce a more enjoyable experience than my previous try.


    • That sounds like a great plan, Curtis. If the humor is kept, you’ll have a blast with the book, I’m sure. And also, little by little, there will be lots of layers and deeper questions explored in it.

      I’m looking forward to hearing how it’s going for you. But please, to you and all, feel free to not like it, to quit it, or to criticize it. (I would love for all of you reading it, to enjoy it and appreciate it as much as I do, but I also want honest reader companions, without obligations of any sort, with the freedom to not like it. I won’t take it bad or personal. It’s not that I’m predicting that you or any won’t like it, it’s just that there’s a classic for each of us, and this may or may not be yours. And maybe your impressions are shared by another reader, and we all can gain from the different thoughts we’ll have).


    • I just came from your blog, which is full of interesting reviews I plan to be reading, and it seems you are used to Victorian English. I hope the page where I have different possibilities helps you.

      It’s difficult for me to tell you which would be best for you. Some of you may be put off by older English, some by more modern English. Ormsby is the translation my Dickens lover friend chose, and she loved it. The only problem with that is that, being an old one, it may be in circulation in cheap formats and copies. Whichever you buy, do so according to what you appreciate for a long book reading. For example, I love paper copies, but when I read Galdós’s Fortunata and Jacinta, 800+ pages, I did it with my kindle. Why? Because, even though I knew the meaning of almost all the words, and could deduct the rest by context, I LOVED clicking on the word, and reading the dictionary meaning. Soooo delightful, ha ha ha. I could also read anywhere, -and that’ll be impossible to do with some oversize books I have.

      The same problem happens with the Russians. Some prefer the feel of Garnett’s, Victorian lady. and some loved the married couple, Pevear and Volokhonsky, that others criticized to death. I looked for this article I read when I was reading The Brothers Karamazov, (even though I ended up reading it in Spanish),, and what surprises me the most is how the writer says that the translator considered the least accurate is… his favorite! LOL.

      How can I help all of you and not get us all stuck before we even start to read? (If you have a chance, please note what you appreciate in a long book, and also choose between whatever is available. But don’t stress. I think if we read together we will up the chances to enjoy it.)


  6. I’m now realizing that some of you may still be getting your copies. I’ll go slow at first, and give you time to catch up, and come to answer comments etc at any time they are made in any of the posts.


  7. Hello! I enjoyed your post. Chris at Calmgrove pointed me to your blog and this read-along. I was planning on joining Nick at One Catholic Life for his Chapter-a-Day read-along and I believe these two readalongs may complement one another. I will stay tuned for your updates each week. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Excellent, BJ. I hope to be a good companion. I am meeting new bloggers, and I will be visiting your blogs in the near future. I have enjoyed Chris at his blog this last year. It’s so sweet of him to have sent you here.

      Thanks for stopping by and for joining.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ruthiella! Hello my sweet friend. Guys, you don’t know how happy you all make me. I find it so amazing that so many of you, people I know in real life or online, whom I admire, and some new people who seem so interested in great literature, want to read along with me. It makes me giddy.


  8. I was hoping to join in the chapter a day readalong over at One Catholic Life, so this fits in perfectly as well. I would join in around February 23 at that rate, since I already read Part I (and I’m not up for a full reread quite yet.) I do look forward to this journey!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I love your initiative! I don’t know if I’ll be able to participate immediately, but I’m sure that when I read Don Quixote I’ll visit your page to read all your comments as well.
    Just one question: what do you think about Andres Trapiello’s adaptation to modern Spanish? Thank you very much! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sonia, estupendo plan. Aqui estare. Sabes que no he leido la adaptacion, pero conozco a un New Yorkino que vive hace algunos anios en Madrid, esta en Goodreads y tiene su blog, se llama Roy Lost, y acaba de leer la adaptacion y comenta buenas cosas sobre la misma. Creo que le voy a preguntar. Tu la has echado un vistaz

      Liked by 1 person

      • Resulta que mi edición del Quijote es bastante vieja, de papel biblia, y hacía tiempo que quería una nueva para leerla sin miedo a que se deshaga, así que aproveché cuando salió esta adaptación y la compré, pensando que al menos tendría una versión diferente. Pero ahora me da cierto reparo que no se pierdan cosas… Me leeré la opinión de Roy Lotz, pero seguramente la acabaré leyendo… ^^ Total, siempre estoy a tiempo de releerla en castellano antiguo, jeje…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Adelante. Yo no leeria la de papel biblia, que incomodo. No pierdes, si lees esta, ganas una primera lectura, te quedaran ganas de leer otra vez, estoy segurisima. Yo tengo dos tomos muy comodos de ediciones castalia, super bien provistos de notas, pero a veces las ignoro por darle continuidad, (creo que tienen mas notas que texto, jajajaja, no tanto, pero esta muy bien surtido y no es castellano antiguo tampoco).

          Dos veces en vez de leerlo, lo escuche. Es el tipico narrador que parece de TV espaniola, y lo narra a la perfeccion. Creo que este audio esta en otros lugares ademas de YouTube.


  10. 1. I love Elizabeth Goudge and just started The Rosemary Tree a few Sundays ago.
    2. I started Don Quioxte last year and didn’t get very far on my own, but was enjoying it, so I’m glad I found your blog (from Close Reads) to follow along – hopefully!
    3. Maybe you can already help me- one of the problems I was having with the book was how un-serious it all seems to be- does it get more serious or is it always with a tongue-in-cheek tone or am I reading it incorrectly?


    • It gets more serious, definitely. It’s not a comical work. It’s tragicomic. As the long book that it is, the change in mood happens slowly. It always has humor, but it’s going to get heavy for a reason. It’s no joke to do what DQ is doing, it has consequences. The ugly side of life is present in the book, and lots of topics and interesting ideas are presented that have lots of depth and ramifications. It’s not a glorified Jeeves and Wooster, no, hahaha.


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  12. Thanks! I have started a readalong on it with another blogger, but he’s very busy and doesn’t post often. I like what YOU do. I will occasionally speak about it as well and will leave you a link when I do

    Liked by 1 person

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