I realized that I had not finished reading chapter 18, or written all I wanted on chapters 16 and 17. And since I’m a bit behind in my reading, this week I’ll post on these chapters to catch up.
Brona already wrote two posts on DQ. I don’t mean to pressure any of you who also blog, or who write at Goodreads or any other place on the Internet, to do the same, it’s mostly to share, and to let you know I’m collecting your blogposts at my Don Quixote’s Page.
Some of you tell me you don’t find the book that funny. And that’s perfectly fine too. Humor and tone are subjective. As long as there’s something in it that keeps you reading it, I believe it could be a gratifying experience, -and not just because that’s what we say after we finish a long book-.
I have heard some say they don’t like long books, but that’s to me a sad comment, since books are long for very different reasons. Long books give us something short ones can’t. Even those authors who master both lengths, aka, Márquez, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Cervantes, Galdós… so many that it’s impossible to list them, they offer us a different take on a novel when they write short than when they take longer. They are doing something different. Extension is an element of form that imposes on the purpose and content. A book of books, such as DQ, or 1001 Arabian Nights, needs length to give us those many narratives inside the narrative. The story of several generations, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, or Midnight’s Children, also needs many pages to be told. The reader must feel engulfed in the ocean of words and tales, time needs to pass, and for the narrative to not change abruptly, pages, many pages, are required.
There’s also the style factor. There’s a short book I treasure, The Plain in Flames, and it’s told in a few pages, it’s very laconic. Nothing to do with ornate and long Rushdie. I haven’t watched Rushdie being interviewed, but I have Juan Rulfo, (the author of The Plain in Flames), and Rulfo presented himself a lot like his novel: circumspect, laconic, saying a lot with pauses and silences, the perfect void that highlights what has been succinctly said or written. It’s like a novel in staccato tempo. DQ begs to be read aloud, or listened to, (though reading is also profitable. This time this is my choice, and I’m benefiting from notes, or writing on the margins, and a better sense of where I am in the book that having a paper copy gives you.)
Finally, on to the missing pieces. The end of chapter XVI shows us DQ, despite his resolve not to cause injury to his beloved Dulcinea, ready to receive the beautiful damsel he thinks is throwing herself into his arms. It’s amazing to me how DQ’s mind can distort such a strong physical presence of Maritormes. The contrast between the ideal and the material is, in my opinion, totally exaggerated in favor of humor. Go and read it (or listen to it) again, and you’ll see how the language of DQ’s ideal picture contrasts so comically with a caricature like Maritormes.
I’m probably biased, but I believe Cervante’s women in DQ are rich and varied, like in real life. He wrote generously about women, -and men alike-. Nobody can be clean of the biases of the time. And Cervantes book is right in the middle of a strong Catholic society, at war with the Moors. Even though the characters express the views of men of that time when they express dislike towards Jews, women, or the portrayal of violence between master and servant, etc., we must remember the author’s boldness and honesty in his approach. Cervantes doesn’t shy away from airing the dirty laundry and the moral faults and hypocrisy of all the characters.
Chapter XVI ends with an epic fight. They even believe DQ dead, and the next chapter starts to show us Sancho’s personality and his answers with more detail. I like their exchange. It’s about both making sense of the strange night, and putting perspective on why and how what happened did happen. Sancho takes DQ’s explanation of the night face value, and he is not happy about having been beaten up for nothing. Notice also that DQ’s attitude is somehow stoic towards what he believes were result of enchantments and forces beyond our control.
The innkeeper wants his money, Sancho refuses to pay and takes cover under the fact that he serves a famous errant knight, DQ, when it comes to intervene in the “manteado” (this is when they took a blanket and threw him in the air) they inflict on Sancho, excuses himself with the laws of knighthood which he twists and stretches according to his already decided course of action.
When it comes to make decisions and act upon them, it’s clear we all have our mindset, our worldview and beliefs. The question is one of the will. How’s our will trained? What’s the hidden law we hold true? Is it the same we profess, or do we apply it after the fact, to look good and justify our actions and our stand on situations? Are we blind to all this?, or do we sometimes think about it when we evaluate ourselves, or examine our lives with transparency?
The beverage works for DQ, but unfortunately, it almost kills Sancho. (This is a placebo, maybe Sancho didn’t drink it with full conviction of ‘its powers’, ha ha ha.)
Chapter XVIII is a phenomenal homage to the knight books, and a tribute to the imagination. As Homer, or a sports commentator, DQ starts narrating a battle among two armies with delight. Sancho falls under the spell, -though he’ll awake from it when reality assaults both of them-.
DQ loses many of his teeth or molars, and the scene starts as comical, when he asks Sancho to check his mouth to assess the damage. Vomits and scatological humor plague this book. But don’t fool yourselves, right before this comical, or absurd scene, we will hear DQ wax philosophical about life getting better after being tough, and declaring to Sancho his faith in God to assist them in a passage beautiful to me that ends quoting from Matthew 5:45, (that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.)
Chapter XVIII though, ends with DQ lamenting his lost teeth.
See you next week, hopefully, when I’ll discuss chapters 19 – 25.
Have a great weekend!