Don Quixote, an interview

I’ve had the honor of being interviewed at Words and Peace, about Don Quixote, a book I call my classic.

I’ll leave you with the closing paragraph. If you care to know about the rest, you can read the full interview here.

I’m crying as I read this, as I cried when I read the part in which Don Quixote dies. I had not read your quote until now. (I’m talking about Rushdie’s quote about what he believes to be Cervante’s message). Before, in these pages, I just wrote this in a clumsier way. I don’t know if that was Cervante’s message, but I’m in shock reading that an author like Rushdie, wrote exactly what I too believe it’s the ultimate message through this book.

32 thoughts on “Don Quixote, an interview

  1. Silvia,

    I just went over to read your interview at Words and Peace. Thanks for the link. Totally appreciate your insight into Don Quixote. In particular, its parallel with Rushdie’s book and the ultimate message he’s trying to convey. I finished reading Dostoevsky’s The Idiot not too long ago, and I think Cervante must have had influenced them both.

  2. Pingback: Don Quixote: interview with Silvia Cachia | Words And Peace

  3. Yes. I am endebted to you for the wonderful questions and the interview.
    This is a long book and those who have tried it, and even finished it, deserve the closure, the explanation, the conversation. I’m definitely doing a part II read along for anyone.

  4. Being a literary translator myself, I know there’s no perfect translation. You can always improve it. One translator may have strengths lacking in another, and weaknesses in other areas

  5. Here you go, so glad you already have someone for a Part 2 readalong. And I’m sure many others will join. It’s neat to see that thanks to your interview, many even want to re-read it

  6. That’s exactly where I find myself at the moment. I recognize the importance of re-reading yet I want to participate in the conversation and read a greater number of books, as you say. Availability, as you mentioned before in other comments, could be a curse more than a blessing. And there’s never enough time.
    Now with Moby Dick, it’s hard for me not to be restless about what I want to read next. To reign my attention is difficult. I always remember what you say about how hard it is to read some classics for this very reason: how demanding. And yet if I foray too much into the modern or lesser books, I feel lost. Only the classics, and a few contemporary titles, have the depth our souls crave, and give that shake to our neurons, lol.

  7. Silvia: I, too, love books about books! I’ll have to check out the C.S. Lewis criticism; also Eco’s Experiences (I’m not familiar with this at all). I envy your experience on rereading the Don: isn’t it wonderful when all the different pieces come together (happens all too rarely for moi!), to give a flash of insight into a book or an author?
    Regarding Moby Dick: we’ve exchanged comments before, on that one. My experience was much the same as yours — it’s absolutely amazing, what Melville managed to get into that novel.
    You’re absolutely right, of courses, that not all books (or maybe even most of them!) are worth a reread. Parks actually discusses this, as well as the fact that the concept of rereading ties into our vanishing ideas about a canon, i.e., an established body of literature which others before us have decided are worth the time/effort for continous rereadings and textual analysis. Parks also discusses the tension between rereading a few books and/or confining one’s self to the canon vs. the desire to read a greater number of books, out of the unbelievable and ever increasing number that are so readily available. I have to admit, I go back and forth on this one; I’ve come to an uneasy balance on the issue (although my reading tilts towards the contemporary, I try to include classics as well) and have pretty much eliminated non-fiction simply because it takes me so long. Even so, there never seems enough time . . .

  8. Thanks for stopping by, as usual, and for chatting with me about my favorite topics. I’m busy too, and not reading a lot, but steady turning pages of this amazing book, Moby Dick. I’m simply floored by it. It’s good that I’m taking my time reading it. Life forces me to go slowly. I’m also working on Eco’s Experiences in Translation.

    I’ve read Simon’s review of that title, and re-read Kaggsy’s, and that’s a very interesting book that deals with topics I ponder about often. I remember that statement by Nabokov. And you are right, he’s a favorite, specially all his talk about what good readers do, what are those books one should re-read, and that the third or fourth time it’s when we really understand it. Not all books render themselves to more than one reading, -they lack the quality-. Plus we all have a favorite or a few that we are always reading. If we mix Nabokov with C.S. Lewis in his An Experiment in Criticism, now we can say that classics are those books we are always reading, (maybe Borges also said that?), and books that always offer something new, no matter how many times we read them.

    I remember distinctively to be listening to Don Quixote for the 3rd or 4th time, and an avalanche of thoughts came to me as I was hearing the different happenings and the dialogues. At the time I had read a book on Magritte, and another one on art, and I had all these thoughts about how the book challenges our ideas of reality, and how it’s also a commentary on the importance of fantasy, or fiction, as the foundation of our worldview and ethics. I could see Cervante’s pen behind the book, and himself talking to us, the readers. He left a piece of his world for us to inhabit it. That’s the post these books inspired.

    It’s fabulous and quite exciting to see all of us, readers, on the same page as titans of literature, ha ha ha. The world of the reader is populated by the best people across time and space!

  9. I’m so proud of you for having read it. It’s a source of joy to have friends and meet those who enjoy this book.

  10. Loved reading your interview, Silvia! Don Quixote and Sancho are quite the unforgettable characters 🙂 I’m glad to have read the book.

  11. Hi Silvia! I’m slowly catching up on my blog reading and see that, as usual, you’ve been very, very busy! Congrats on a great interview (I’ve just finishing reading it) — you really made Don Quixote come alive for me; I feel like I’m almost reading to give it a try. Although your interview was full of things to think about (especially for one as unfamiliar with the book as I am) I was particularly struck by your remarks that a reader “who doesn’t know what’s coming” could become a bit lost in part 1, that after reading the book once, we “know we’ll escape the maze soon” and that “knowing a bit of what to expect, can help us not to hurry the experience.” I’ve just been dipping into a collection of essays on “reading, rereading and other mysteries” by Tim Parks (Kaggsy has blogged about it at as has Simon at Stuck in a Book ), which has a great essay on re-reading, called “Reading Is Forgetting.” Part of the inspiration for the essay comes from Vladimir Nabokov’s (a favorite of yours, correct?) statement that “one cannot read a book: one can only reread it.” Parks discusses Nabokov’s idea that it’s only AFTER the first read, when one has learned “in time and space” what a book is about, that one can go on and really understand it; that only a third or fourth reading allows us to really hold the entirety of a book in our mind, as we would a painting. It’s a complex idea that I’m struggling with, but your remarks seem to me to pretty much say the same thing. So — congrats! Not only are you on the same page as Rushdie, but also of Vladimir Nabokov’s as well! There’s a reason I tune in to your blog (put a smiley face here! )

  12. I may not even be able to do part II until the summer. I want to do it, but I also need to find the time, and this season is busy for me with substitute work.
    I will talk more later in the early 1900 writers, and yes, they are quite depressing.

  13. I would love to read through Part II but I probably wouldn’t have enough time until January, but possibly December, what with read-alongs on my blog for The Art of Loving in October and The House of Mirth in November and THEN I have The Grapes of Wrath slated for December. However, please let me know what you decide and I’ll see what I can do. I’ve read Part I twice and Part II only once, so Part II really needs a re-read! 🙂

    I didn’t change my mind about The Great Gatsby however hard I tried. I’m reading The Good Soldier at the moment and it’s reminding me of it. Nothing but wrong decisions that people try to make look right and moral standards that people completely jettison based on almost an animal instinct. I must say I’m not impressed by these early 1900s authors. I can appreciate Virginia Woolf and am desperately trying to think of someone else but can’t at the moment. Rather disappointing …

    However, I LOVE Jane Austen … some books more than others but I have a definite appreciation for them all!

  14. Cleo. Your comment means the world to me. It was only after my 3rd attempt or more that I was able to read part II in full. For readers it was like reading The Handmaid’s Tale, and years after The Testaments. It’s just to signify that they had to wait for book 2 and they probably understood the change in tone.
    I’m truly getting motivated to blog through part 2. And I encourage anyone who has read part 1, no matter how long ago, to just join me for part 2, or simply read the posts and make sense of part 2 in retrospect through my talk and possibly quotes.
    I would love to redeem part 2 a bit, and give some clues to revisit our experience of it and maybe assign new value to the effort of having read it.
    I am really impressed by how many have read it in full. While I don’t want to change or alter people’s view of this classic, -even when they don’t love it, and when they loath it, it is our reader right to do so-, I believe that my experience and what I see could help someone see something new, and I am sure I may learn something as well.
    I have had a change in my views of certain books such as Great Gatsby, or Jane Austen’s books, to mention a few.

  15. Wow, what an awesome interview! I’m being sincere when I say it’s one of the best I’ve read. I read Don Quixote and number of years ago ……… I think on the first read Cevantes leaves impressions, but you have added a voice and an understanding to those impressions. I was tired after reading part I and part II sounded completely different and was not that enjoyable. But your explanation explains those feelings and gives me a greater appreciation for what I read. I can’t wait to read it again, in fact! Brava!! 👏

  16. It’s well known among other Spanish speaking countries, as Dickens -good comparison- is known beyond England.

    I will do book 2, for myself, and for you, my dear friends.

  17. Great interview Silvia. I don’t know if there is an English speaking world equivalent to Quixote.Maybe Dickens in that many people know his stories even though they have never read one of his books (like A Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist). Do you know if DQ is as well known in other Spanish speaking countries?

    I hope you do blog about part II when you are able. I am sloooooowly reading part I and am so glad I have your blog and other bloggers as resources for when I am ready.

  18. Being a historian, I would certainly find interesting things about such a project even if it wasn’t best for informing the original work. Anyway, right now these books are the other end of the world from me!

  19. Translations of old classics, since there’s many, are always subject to numerous reviews, and as you say, controversy. I own the Spanish one, -which is close to the original, not totally modernized, but without the old spellings-, Ormsby, and Grossman. Ormsby is nice for those who don’t mind reading more ‘victorian’ English translation, it’s from 1885. Grossman’s may be more approachable, and yet maybe it loses some of that old feel I get when I read in Spanish, but the ‘spirit’ of DQ is there, and DQ being a modern book, there’s nothing wrong with reading it in a translation that conveys that and that’s done by a contemporary to us.

    I find it fun and stimulating to embark on your own adventure into finding a translation that suits you, but I do believe that if you are ripe to appreciate the book and if the book speaks to you, whichever translation you choose will be perfect.

  20. Interesting. And yet not without controversy I see. I’ve just looked up whether I have any copies and I have two:

    (1) by Thomas Shelton, early 1600s the first translation into any language, I read on wiki
    (2) by Charles Jervas, mid 1700s not long after, and highly regarded for a long time.

    Both are 1600s translators. Could be interesting to compare them! Shelton’s translations were done while Cervantes was still alive. In a late 1800s reprint of his translation it is introduced thus:

    “Shelton’s title to remembrance is based upon the broadest grounds. He had no sympathy for the arid accuracy that juggles with a gerund or toys with the crabbed subjunctive. From the subtleties of syntax, as from the bonds of prosody he sallies free; and the owls of pedantry have bitterly resented his arrogant disdain for them and theirs. And they have sought to avenge themselves, after their manner, by reproaching him with taking a disjunctive for an interjection, and with confounding of predicate and subject. They act after their kind. But Shelton’s view of his function was ampler and nobler than the hidebound grammarian’s. He appeals to the pure lover of literature; and as a man of letters he survives.”

  21. That’s so nice to hear. Rushdie had read it before, but he got a renewed interest in the book after he read Edith Grossman’s translation.

    Grossman is amazing. She’s translated from Márquez and Vargas Llosa, to Don Quixote, and other contemporary Spanish writers plus many of the classics for good measure. Her love, understanding of the language and culture, and her abilities are incredible.

    A quote from Wikipedia:

    Fidelity is surely our highest aim, but a translation is not made with tracing paper. It is an act of critical interpretation. Let me insist on the obvious: Languages trail immense, individual histories behind them, and no two languages, with all their accretions of tradition and culture, ever dovetail perfectly. They can be linked by translation, as a photograph can link movement and stasis, but it is disingenuous to assume that either translation or photography, or acting for that matter, are representational in any narrow sense of the term. Fidelity is our noble purpose, but it does not have much, if anything, to do with what is called literal meaning. A translation can be faithful to tone and intention, to meaning. It can rarely be faithful to words or syntax, for these are peculiar to specific languages and are not transferable.

    She’s pretty much in line with Eco’s thoughts on what translation is. They are both immersed in the process, so they place the issue at the vantage axis of theory and practice.

  22. I’ve been reading John Berger on Spanish art, as well as a long short story by Sciascia on the Civil War, both of which make me feel for the first time that I should try harder to warm to Spanish culture. You have now added to this and I feel for the first time that I should read Don Q. Is there a particular English translation you might recommend?

  23. Every re-read I’ve done has been great. If we had had insights when we were young! (I say the same about many books, subjects, life even, ha ha ha)

  24. Karen, thanks for your detailed comment. You know, I may do book 2 as I did book 1 next year. It’s appropriate to take a year in between, since they were written with years in between. Definitely, every new time is easier. Our first visit of the book gives us more ability to see more and be less bogged down by the size and newness of it.

    I was tired after book 1, but with renewed energies, I feel I can just do a book 2 read along. Stay tuned!

  25. I just finished reading your interview Silvia. I really appreciated it! I left a comment there but wanted to comment here and say a bit more. I see that I’m not alone in feeling like Book 2 was more work to get through. I talked a bit about this on my blog this past week. I did feel like Book 2 fell flat for me, maybe because it felt a bit monotonous. In your interview you said:

    “The entrapment and circularity of part 1 can bore a visitor who does not know what is coming. By part 2, we are all tired, and maybe not up to the sadder tone of the book and the premonition of what’s to come. After we’ve read the book once, we know that we’ll escape the maze soon. Knowing a bit of what to expect, can help us not to hurry the experience, and to notice the ideas lifting up from what seems stupid happenings.”

    So maybe it was also the sadder tone or that I was just getting tired as you say with the second book. Reading your thoughts in the interview makes me want to go back and read Book 2 again – maybe even the whole book! This is one of the reasons I love reading books along with other people, especially in the manner of a read-along like what you did with Book 1. You get to see more in the book potentially because you get to hear other’s insights and thoughts. And you did such a fabulous job with all the thoughts and information you shared as you blogged about Book 1. If you ever decide to blog through Book 2, I would like to read Book 2 again along with you!

  26. Silvia, congrats on having been interviewed. This was very enlightening for me. It made me wish I had these insights when we read many years ago excerpts from Don Quixote in a college class. I was particularly struck by your statement that “knowing a bit of what to expect can help us not to hurry the experience.” What a good reason to reread a book (for me)!

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