Summertime Reading Don Quixote

A couple of years ago, my reading project for the summer vacation was the complete Don Quijote de la Mancha, 1,100 pages—well, sometime after Labor Day, when schools had restarted after summer vacation, it was high time for me to wrap up the project. So, I wrote the following on a now abandoned blog.

As the summer winds down and fall kicks in, I have a new understanding of the complexity of Cervantes’ classic, Don Quixote de la Mancha, and I understand now that there is much more to the Quixote saga than I ever suspected.

(Illustrated above, The Neophyte, Gustave Doré. The central figure is the young monk, Frère Angel, from George Sand’s novel, Spiridion first published in 1838.)

I began my Cervantes reading project with the Spanish language edition of Quixote commemorating the 400th year of the initial publication. The ample notes and glossary of the Royal Spanish Academy edition were a big help, but the small print was a torment even with stronger reading glasses. I supplemented the difficult Cervantes Spanish with frequent references to the RAE Spanish dictionary and the excellent Edith Grossman translation.

This method got me through Part I in pretty good order—only 900 or so more pages to go. However, shortly after starting Part II I hit a wall, so to speak. The storyline seemed to elude me and I couldn’t discover any continuity. I was lost in the novel’s meandering discourse; reference to the English was helpful but I remained pretty much overwhelmed.

Not reading the second part of Don Quixote would be unfortunate since it narrates the 3rd sally in which the Don and Sancho travel toward Barcelona. This is where Sancho will finally get governorship of an island. Also, this part ends with the sad death of Don Quixote—to bad to miss all that.

Fortunately, I discovered the Alfaguara Spanish student’s text: Don Quijote de la Mancha, Selección anotada. This text edits out Cervantes’ meandering commentaries and excludes extraneous material, sometimes leaving out whole chapters, to focus on the main story line, which is Don Quixote’s and Sancho’s travel and their adventures. The Spanish of Cervantes is preserved, but there is a clear story line for the reader—this is what I needed.

Additionally, the Alfaguara student edition was illustrated with some of the 190 Doré engravings used to illustrate an 1869 French translation of Don Quixote. These extensive illustrations have been collected and published in Doré Illustrations for Don Quixote, Dover Publications, 1982. The illustrations can be viewed online at:
With these new resources and more time I was able to complete the project to my satisfaction—a least minimally, since I skipped some “non-essential” chapters. Clearly, this great work has much more for me to discover, but that is enough for now.

To cap this reading project, I created a short movie that used Doré Illustrations of two adventures: the Don’s attack on windmills and the short, but fierce, battle between Don Quixote and a Basque guard. I added a soundtrack by Spanish diva Rocío Dúrcal. The movie can be viewed on the Quixote And Sancho Channel on YouTube:

This was a great summer project, but it was time consuming and other projects either got delayed or abandoned.


Day 32: Don Quijote de la Mancha, Selección Anotada (Miguel de Cervantes, prolog by Jose Saramago) (2005).

About carto

Retired software engineer who grew up in Montana, went to Montana State College in Bozeman, and moved to California to work at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Carto's Library is about books I've read and liked; Carto's Logbook is about photography, travel and adventure. Mt. Maurice Times is tall tales mostly biographical.
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