Invitation to Read Don Quixote, post #2, Prologue

Wow, guys. I’m truly excited. I didn’t think this idea was going to have the warm reception it did. There’s quite a lot of you who want to read Don Quixote in company. I know some of you in person, many from Goodreads or your blogs, and there’s a few new people. I want to welcome and thank everybody and add that if you are reading this in the future, you are still welcome to the conversation.

Photo by MA. Reguera

I talk with my friend Kim through Voxer, and we were discussing how she wants to blog or write about her experience reading Don Quixote, and at the same time she doesn’t want to trap herself in a commitment she won’t be able to meet. I understand her completely. This year has started full of energy and great reading intentions for me. I see everybody around with those nice posts and recaps of 2018, and there’s a huge offer of challenges, and more interesting posts about reading plans for 2019. Actually, Kim and some of you decided to read Don Quixote when you saw Nick’s challenge. I don’t know Nick, but I’m now following his posts too.

Quitting my participation at a local book club gave me this feeling of freedom to read what I want, and I want to keep it. I also want to be the same excited blogging about Don Quixote as I currently am. The fact that many of you are finding the book fun and interesting, fills me with joy and motivation. Nick’s first post on the prologue and poetry is here. Brona, -one of you participating-, already left hers here. And with just those two, we all have an important part covered.

What can you expect from me? I told Kim some of my posts may be just a paragraph, others may get long. If any of you wants, feel free to email me or let me know of anything you want me to add or discuss in them. I can link to your Goodreads, blog, or copy and paste from an email. My account is silviacachia at gmail dot com. The comments are open to anyone who wishes to comment. I will gladly add any links to anything you want to share at the Don Quixote’s page.

Translation, printed book, ebook, audio book. That came up in the comments at the first post. I believe most of you are already situated and already reading different options, and some of you have told me the humor is salient, so we are all up to a good start.

Kim asked me about why Quijote and Quixote. The answer is because in old Spanish spelling, we used to have ‘x’ letter for our ‘j’ and some ‘g’ sounds when it’s followed by ‘e’ or ‘i’ in which case it sounds like ‘j’, as in geranio, geranium, –which sounds like jeranio, or gitano, gypsy, not gato. cat, which sounds like Gatsby. In Spain, we write Mexico like this, Méjico. Mexicans also pronounce their country Méjico, with an “h” sound, (that’s how our “j” sounds.) There’s some names with the fashionable old spelling, Xavier, Ximena, and how you pronounce them it depends on the person’s taste, on how they tell us to do so. In Spain we usually pronounce Javier, Jimena, (which are common spellings of those names too), but I’ve heard Xavier’s pronounced ex-a-vier, in an anglo style.

Quixote is just the old spelling, and most translations have not changed it. If you want to know how it sounds, here you can do so. Our ‘o’ is short, not the English ‘ou’. In chapter one, you’ll read that our character’s surname was Quesada, (from queso, cheese), or maybe Quijada, (which is how we call an animal’s jaw.) Cervantes says we don’t know the last name of our protagonist, but then he adds it must have been Quijada, for he picked Quixote-Quijote for his knightly name. The Don is to give it more prestige, it’s a Mr. Quixote, and ‘de la Mancha‘ is a ‘von la Mancha’ of sorts, which gives us the place the knight is from, such as Amadís de Gaula, one of Quixote’s heroes.

Since I’m in the mood, I’ll tell you a few things about the prologue. Cervantes wrote it, -as many writers do-, after he wrote the first part. This is a total attack to his intimate enemy Lope de Vega. They both lived in the same neighborhood in Madrid. Lope was nicknamed “The Phoenix of Wits” and “Monster of Nature” (in Spanish: Fénix de los Ingenios, Monstruo de la Naturaleza) by Cervantes because of his prolific nature. In return, Lope is the one who called Cervantes El Manco de Lepanto, Lepanto’s one-armed. Here is an interesting article about the prologue, and who was that friend who helped him to write it.

I also found an incredibly complete analysis on the sonnets in Don Quixote, quoting:

[Also my book must do without sonnets at the beginning, at least sonnets whose authors are dukes, marquises, counts, bishops, ladies, or famous poets. Although if I were to ask two or three friendly tradesmen, I know they would give me some, and such that the productions of those that have the highest reputation in our Spain could not equal.]

As is well known, the barb is for Lope, whose multitude of works written immediately prior to the publication of Part One of Don Quixote each contained a plethora of encomiastic sonnets written by just such personalities as Cervantes describes. Needless to say, many of these sonnets were actually written by Lope himself and christened under another’s name. This practice is subsequently satirized by Cervantes, when the friend in the prologue tells him that the problem with the sonnets he lacks:

[can be removed if you yourself take a little trouble to write them. You can afterwards baptize them and give them any name you like, fathering them of Prester John of the Indies or the Emperor of Trebizond . . . and (if) any pedants or bachelors should attack you and question the fact, don’t let it bother you two maravedís’ worth, for even if they prove a lie against you, they cannot cut off the hand you wrote it with.]

This, of course, is Cervantes’s final solution. But the authorship smoke screen he wafts around the sonnets has a very definite purpose. Just as Erasmus’s Stultitia provides ironic distance that intervenes between Erasmus and his satire, the “authors” of the sonnets provide Cervantes with the ironic distance he needs from which he can mock and criticize at will. On a simplistic level he can always disclaim responsibility for what is said in them. At the same time he is satirizing the ultimate vanity displayed by Lope and other contemporary poets: self-aggrandizement, the trait embodied by Philautia (Self-Love), one of Stultitia’s attendants in Praise of Folly . On a structural and stylistic level, he is also anticipating the ambiguity and the ironic distance to be created within the body of the novel by the authorship confusion between Cide Hamete, the translator, the narrator, and the second author. End of quote.

So Lope de Vega used to write sonnets, and add them at the beginning of his works under false names of important personalities. I told Kim that he was an ‘intellectual’, but it may not have been that. Read this from Wikipedia and tell me what you think,

Lope boasted that he was a Spaniard pur sang (pure-blooded), maintaining that a writer’s business is to write so as to make himself understood, and took the position of a defender of the language of ordinary life.

Lope’s literary influence was chiefly Latin-Italian and, while he defended the tradition of the nation and the simplicity of the old Castilian, he emphasized his university education and the difference between those educated in the classics and the layman.

And about those verses missing the last syllable, called verses of cabo roto, –broken rope-they remind me of songs when I grew up, in which the last word is a bad word, or something which means something naughty, and we sang them changing it for another word, -when everybody knew the intended one.

My favorite sonnet is the last one. The contrast between Babieca and Rocinante is like comparing a Rolls Royce to a car falling apart. Quixote named his horse, his lady, but not his sword. Soon we’ll see his transformation into a knight. Compare it, if you wish, to a not so young man making himself a makeshift costume, something between Superman and Spiderman, and choosing for his Batmovile a tattered Chevy truck.

For good or bad, Cervantes invites you to talk about his book. As I told you, let us know your thoughts and unfiltered impressions on it.

I’ve heard fans of the book say how each time they read it they laugh in different parts, and I’ve gotten to experience that myself. That’s what happened to me today with a comment of Kim in the first chapters, she highlighted a couple of places that were funny, that I didn’t notice. Soon I’ll discuss those first 7 chapters, and tell you what she found comical, and we all can compare notes.

Be ready to meet a man gone mad by all the many books he read, all about knights. It’s July in La Mancha, and the books and the summer heat have dried all the juice his brains had. I think that, second to venture to live a delusional life as a Marvel hero, or a Jane Austen heroine, -which can land you at a mental institution, jail, or even the morgue-, it’d be to let your imagination ran wild in a novel, a fan-fiction novel which purpose is to blow up the genre. We can also enjoy that kind of life, living it vicariously through the reading of such a novel, and free of the consequences.

10 thoughts on “Invitation to Read Don Quixote, post #2, Prologue

  1. Thanks again Silvia for the invitation to read this. Who hasn’t heard the name Don Quixote? But then again who also knows much about it? Truthfully, I had no idea how humorous it is. I am so enjoying this adventure… thankfully I don’t see it ending up as most of Don Quixote’s have so far! I am both reading on kindle and listening through the Hoopla app from my library. The narrator is amazing! I have been laughing out loud as I’ve been reading and listening.

    I’m looking forward to your posts. The background you’ve given in this post is very helpful! Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t wait to read through all of your post and click through and read some of the links you’ve posted. I haven’t had time to do so yet….

    I’m on Ch. 4 and really enjoying it! I’ve already chuckled several times already! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So Silvia, I am doing the Ormsby audio you linked and feel like I might need to follow with the book in hand. I didn’t realize we had all started! Comparing audios from Grossman and Ormsby, Grossman is more layman, clear and Ormsby a bit more poetic, is that an accurate description? I fear I would miss much by only doing the audio but that might be the only way I would get through it! Oh I’m torn and wasting time when I could be listening now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your description is totally accurate. Don’t worry about wasting time, you are not!, enjoy what you are doing. I am starting slow, and I will be at it for long, as needed. Once you get familiar with the narrator, you may want to listen to longer chunks. If you decide to read, start with a chapter a day, (some days you may read more than one, others none.) I plan to write about the book every week, some thoughts, not a detailed description of each chapter. You don’t have to even read those posts, but know that I am here, reading along, and commenting and discussing the book whenever you want.


  4. You said: “Quitting my participation at a local book club gave me this feeling of freedom to read what I want, and I want to keep it.” This is how I feel about letting go of the reading challenge this year and doing my own personal reading challenge. But I also do feel like my book clubs dictate my reading to some degree (by necessity it does). I really enjoy my IRL book club and the MMD book club. But I’m giving myself permission to not read an MMD book club selection if it isn’t engaging for me. For my IRL book club, I’m the one who started it and am the leader. So I don’t like abandoning a book in that case. This year, I’m approaching things a bit differently for my IRL book club. And I think this will help me enjoy my reading experiences with the book club books more. I did enjoy some of our book club picks, but there were some that were a real slog to get through and it showed in my reading life. I got burned out on classics for awhile. So I’m approaching things a bit differently this year. I know I’m not going to enjoy every book I read. But making a couple of small changes I hope will help lessen the chance of burnout. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved seeing how you created your own challenge, and left the challenge that didn’t work for you.

      I’m glad you are in charge of the IRL book club. I know you guide the group well. It’s true. Classics can burn you out, specially if picked for a book club, for the reason that they may need to be alternated with lighter reads.

      My first year of book club, the selections and the discussion were new to me, and very interesting. If the book club is a loved one, it’s normal we sometimes get some not so great titles. Giving you permission not to read some of the selections, (book club or your own picks) is good too. I do hope those changes you’ve devised work well and give the book club an even better dynamic.

      I was telling my dear friend Sherry, that I’m enjoying this approach that has slowly been taking shape, that consists on noticing and soaking into my own library, looking at the books, remembering why it is that I bought them, and why I think I’d like reading them, etc., and picking some titles for a couple of fitting challenges with the understanding that I don’t need to read everything in those lists if some of the titles don’t prove what I’m needing at the time, or anymore.


      1. Yes, Silvia, some of the classics that were picked and when they were read (in close proximity to each other) I think were the big reasons for feeling burned out. And that’s what I discovered, was that some need lighter reads to balance it out. And lighter reads can I think still be classics but also modern or maybe a different genre, etc. Last year, I did do some pre-reading initially and prepared reading guides for everyone…but then we chose to each pick a book going alphabetical by each person’s first name to determine who picked when, if that makes sense, and we all read them together. This is where we ended up with some back to back long, heavier books. It sounds good in theory for me as the leader to just read along with them….but I found that I much prefer to get the book suggestions ahead of time and pre-read them then pick and schedule them. I feel much more prepared as a leader and I feel like this also means better scheduling of titles as to what gets read back to back. Does that make sense?

        Anyway, it was my first year of leading a book club and I learned lots! 🙂 I’m taking what I learned and applying small changes to this year. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It makes a lot of sense, Karen. I like reading about your book club experience. I’m glad you’ve learned things and I know those changes will afford you another wonderful year. You want to avoid long classics back to back. And at the time, I would have thought that alphabetical order idea would be fun. Since you organize it, don’t shy from taking some control. You don’t do it to impose, but to help the club flow better, and have a nice organization so that you’ll read in a non stressful way and have lots of fun.


  5. Thanks so much for all the info.
    I read a lot of classics when I was too young (French education), and now that I’m rereading some, I discover the humor that I never saw in them when I was younger. There are definitely hilarious passages in Don Quixote

    Liked by 1 person

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