Tag Archives: Don Quixote

“Translating from one language to another, unless it is from Greek and Latin, the queens of all languages, is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they are covered by threads that obscure them, and cannot be seen with the smoothness and color of the right side.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Some scientists would like to divide the world’s history into periods like the dawn of time, precambrian time and the phanerozoic eon with subdivisions for eras, periods and epochs all of which hold up about as well a library sorted by the weight of books. Likewise modern historians – who tend to be novelists posing as sociologists or vice versa – the ancient world, the dark ages, medieval times, the age of reason, etc., most of which – like the renaissance – are 19th century inventions and betray all of the prejudices of the reduction of the soul to a mass-produced piece of clockwork.

Many wish to claim, wrongly, that Quixote [and Shakespeare for that matter (and there is certainly more that unites them than separates them!)] are products of the late renaissance [and I use this francophone pretension because most readers will not recognize renascence which is the proper English spelling of the word] when, in reality, they are very much high points at the end of the age of Faith. Cervantes had been a slave for the muslims that continuously pirated the trade of the Mediterranean from before the Crusades until Stephen Decatur arranged  a treaty with the ruler of Algiers, “dictated at the mouths of our cannon”, in 1815. No place in any of his works can I find any praise for ebullience  at pornography,  soft drugs being legalized, divorce, party-politics, or kissing in the street.

If you read the great book itself you will encounter the following passage, “There is no book so bad…that it does not have something good in it,” unfortunately this book proves that in that one particular – which may have been true when written – is now, sadly, false.

Don Quixote’s delusions : travels in Castilian Spain    Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, 2002 Miranda France Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de, 1547-1616. Don Quixote, Castilla-La Mancha (Spain) Description and travel Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 243 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 236-237) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

Miranda France is a travel writer with an unsparingly absurd voice. Her book tells us about Spain by juxtaposing Cervantes’s life and his character’s adventures with the author’s own anecdotes, characters, and observations. As such you would think that the primary criticism would be that it is derivative but it is not – she understands neither Quixote nor his creator Cervantes and this is nothing more or less than revisionists twaddle trying to fit a medieval character into the modern world.

At the heart of Miranda France’s  book are two very different visits to Spain, set ten years apart. In 1987, the author spent her student year in Madrid – when post-Franco ebullience was at its height and pornography and soft drugs were legalized, along with divorce, party-affiliation, and kissing in the street. A return trip to central Spain, taken in 1998, shows her that much has changed in the country, but also that much has endured. An  cast of real-life characters, along with her cursory investigations of  Cervantes’s Don Quixote – published in 1605 and, the author finds out, the most translated book after the Bible – reveal much about the identity of modern Spain and its people.

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Comments Off on “Translating from one language to another, unless it is from Greek and Latin, the queens of all languages, is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they are covered by threads that obscure them, and cannot be seen with the smoothness and color of the right side.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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