Don Quixote- Cervantes (Wordsworth Edition 1993) – A Book To “Read Before You Die”

It’s time for my second pick from Peter Boxall’s “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”.  Last time round, from this chronologically arranged publication I went with “The Golden Ass” dated around 260 AD.  I’m dividing the titles up into groups of five and selecting one to read from these.  The next five choices were:

The Thousand And One Nights

Gargantua and Pantagruel – Rabelais

Euphues: The Anatomy Of Wit – John Lyly

The Unfortunate Traveller – Thomas Nashe

Don Quixote- Cervantes

As with my previous choice I went with the most recent of the bunch but primarily because I had an unread Wordsworth paperback edition on my shelf.  So I set the time machine forward some 355 years from Apuleius for this doorstop of a book which appeared in two parts, the first in 1605, the second 10 years later.

The Wordsworth Edition uses this novel’s third English translation by Peter Motteux which dates from 1712.  Most of us would some idea as to what Don Quixote is about as both he and his squire Sancho Panca have entered our consciousness.  Most would know the “tilting at windmills” episode from early on in the book.  I knew it was a tale of a knight-errant obsessed with tales of chivalry but I had no idea how Cervantes would sustain this for a book of this length, nor did I appreciate just how old this work is, Cervantes was around the same time as Shakespeare, he died just a few days before him and this Spanish classic has proved an intriguing reading experience.

It has taken me a month but I do feel enriched for having read it.  There’s a marked distinction between the two parts, the first was pretty much what I was expecting.  Don Quixote, nothing like the chivalrous heroes of old and suffering from delusions sets out with the verbose Sancho Panca (spelt like this in this edition but the c in his surname is now more commonly a z), Quixote on an old nag he has mentally reinvented into his steed Rozinante and the squire on his beloved donkey Dapple to do deeds of derring do in the name of a peasant woman Quixote has fantasised into his Lady Dulcinea.  They encounter various folk on their way who tend to have fun at their expense with Quixote’s mental wanderings occasionally leading him to make atrocious mistakes.  He believes a dilapidated inn is a castle and is so wrapped up in his image as a chivalrous knight that fact and fiction is blurred.

In the second part this fact vs fiction theme is rounded out nicely.  Cervantes writes as if he is the editor of an Arabic translation of the first part which has become a best seller.  Many of those who meet Quixote from here on in have read about him and his exploits.  A significant part features a Duke and Duchess who have much sport in setting up scenarios for the knight and his squire, bestowing on Sancho Panca a fake governorship of an “island” which was something Quixote has always promised him as a reward for his duties.  Another well rounded dimension is added to the book when Cervantes addresses something which had occurred in the real world when an author stole his characters and published his own “Don Quixote Part 2”.  Cervantes regularly insures his own reputation is intact and employs various methods to attack this author in his text.

All in all this is a very rich, very dense text.  At times it did feel like I was plodding through it but then I would remember the age of the book and the vitality of Cervantes’ tales and it would not be too long before it shifted into a fresh direction.  It’s a comic tale with much more besides and I emerged from my reading of it exhausted but very impressed.

Don Quixote was originally published in two parts in Spanish in 1605 and 1615.  I read the 1712 translation by Peter Motteux.

The Winterlings – Cristina Sanchez-Andrade (Scribe 2016)

Day 44 without internet access.  It does seem that EE, the broadband providers are now trying to do what they can but are continually thwarted by BT, who have been saying “another 48 hours, another 48 hours” for weeks now.


It’s to Galicia in the early 1950’s that celebrated Spanish author Sanchez-Andrade takes us in her latest novel.  The reader needs to put into place a fair amount of suspension of disbelief and immerse themselves into her fictional world, which is a little odd, but does feel steeped in oral tradition and folk tale.  As well as feeling European it also reminds me of the South American magical realism genre,

Two sisters, nicknamed The Winterlings return to their deceased grandfather’s house having spent the  war years in England.  The villagers, chock a block with tradition and superstition know that the women have a secret and also want them to absolve them from a deal made with their grandfather.  Dolores has ambitions to be an actress which she believes will be fulfilled when Ava Gardner arrives nearby to film “Pandora And The Flying Dutchman” (1951) whilst sister Saladina is more concerned in getting the local dentist, with whom she is enamoured, to give her a full set of teeth.  The whole thing buzzes with the surrealism of small village life.  People become summed up by a few  actions and the past can never be forgotten.  The novel is translated by Samuel Rutter who manages to bring alive the vibrancy of Sanchez-Andrade’s use of language.  The sisters come across as strong characters in a tale which felt for me a little too distanced from reality and too whimsical for my taste. I am aware that this type of writing has a lot of fans all over Europe and those who have been enchanged by  Jonas Jonassen , Frederik Backman, Rachel Joyce and Catharina Ingleman-Sundberg  (and other writers of this ilk) will find this a worthwhile read .


The Winterlings was published by Scribe in  August 2016.  I would like to thank the good people at Scribe for the review copy.