Reading Don Quixote in 2014

Nearly two weeks into 2014 and so far I’m still happy with my strategy of reading what I want to read when I want to read it. One thing I’m missing, though, after taking part in year-long readalongs of Clarissa in 2012 and War and Peace in 2013, is having a long classic on my reading pile which I can divide into manageable monthly instalments. I looked at my Classics Club list and chose the longest unread book on the list, which is…

Don Quixote - Edith Grossman

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances, that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote’s fancy often leads him astray-he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants-Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers’ imaginations for nearly four hundred years.

So, I’m going to be reading Don Quixote in 2014! Any advice on which translation to read would be welcome. I know Edith Grossman’s translation (pictured) was very well received a few years ago but I’ve also heard that John Ormsby’s older translation is more faithful to the original (it’s also available as a free ebook which is an advantage, but I don’t mind paying for a better version).

I don’t want to set a fixed number of pages that I have to read every month as I don’t want to feel under any pressure, but I will probably aim for somewhere between 100-200 pages a month. I decided not to make this an official readalong as I wasn’t sure anyone else would want to participate and I’m not very good at sticking to schedules anyway, but if anyone else is reading it or planning to read it soon, please let me know – it would be interesting to compare our thoughts at the end!

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20 responses

  1. I considered the Grossman translation but then when I did a bit of research online, there were some criticisms of it. Eventually I went for the Penguin Classics John Rutherford translation. So far I’ve read the first part and found it excellent. However, I’ve seen a quote online which says: “in making it as easy to read for a modern audience Grossman did have to sacrifice a good deal in the character of the original, which is very humorous in its pithy yet profound. Therefore, if you are OK with working at it a little more, then I highly recommend John Ormsby’s translation as by far the most superior English translation.” So there you go! (There is also a post here which compares the two and says also that Grossman loses the humour: http://plumeofwords.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/rutherford-and-grossman-translations-of-don-quixote/)

    1. Thanks! It sounds as though each of the translations will have its good and bad points, as is usually the case. I’ll probably just have to choose one, start reading and see what I think…maybe not Grossman’s though, as it would seem a shame to lose the humour.

  2. This is one of the classics that completely intimidates me. But I think I’m going to tackle another of my “intimidations” this year – Moby-Dick, so you may inspire me to try this one someday.

    1. It intimidates me too, but I’ve wanted to read it for such a long time I’m determined to get over my fear of it and give it a try. I’m not brave enough to read Moby Dick, though, so good luck with it!

  3. I have it on my list too but I’m not sure if I dare tackle it this year. I’m not ready to start it now at least. I think I read a part of it in school and that I actually thought it quite amusing so maybe it’s not that hard and scary?

    1. I’m hoping that breaking it down into shorter monthly sections will make it less hard and scary!

  4. Good luck Helen not sure I’d be brave enough to attempt this :-)

    1. Thanks Jessica. It’s probably the most intimidating book I have left on my Classics Club list but I’m hoping it will be easier to read than I’m expecting.

  5. I have no advice but just wanted to say good luck :)

  6. Even if I wasn’t already committed to readalongs of big books (Clarissa in real time on Twitter and all of the Lymond books over the year with another group) I wouldn’t be brae enough to take on this one. But good luck – it must have endured for a reason!

    1. Oh, good luck with Clarissa! I tried to read it in real time a couple of years ago but fell behind and never quite managed to catch up again. I did like the book overall, though.

  7. This has never even been on my ‘maybe’ list to read – I just don’t know much about it and haven’t been tempted. I hope you enjoy it and I will look forward to your posts throughout 2014.

    1. I don’t know much about it either, but I’m curious about it and hoping it’s something I’ll enjoy!

  8. Helen,
    I read a Walter Starkie translation, and it was great. Don Quixote did intimidate me b/c of its size, but since I read it (and it took me like 3 months), it has become my most beloved classic. It was entertaining and amusing and outrageous. I want to read it again soon, but my TBR list is going to explode. Anyway, the good thing is that the chapters are short, so if you like to break up your reading into chapters, it is doable. Good luck!

    1. Hi Ruth, I’m so glad to hear you loved this book! That makes me feel much happier about reading it. I’m going to take it slowly and break it up into shorter sections at first but hopefully I’ll find I’m enjoying it enough to want to read it quicker.

  9. Hi Ruth – I think you may struggle to put this one down…I laughed out loud, and cringed equally, and well as feeling desperately bad for the two main characters. It’s great book – enjoy!

    1. I’ve read the first few chapters and enjoying it so far!

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